Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Howdy/ On Choosing Cornell

About a week ago I officially accepted a position in the MFA program at Cornell. I had been pretty torn between Cornell and U Michigan. I also briefly considered NYU (who gave me shit for funding) and Virginia Commonwealth (which is less well ranked, but has an outstanding faculty and Blackbird).

What sold me on Cornell:
  • I am mildly obsessed with Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon's poetry-- when I think about where I am trying to go with my writing, I think she is very close to the poetry I want to write. There are certainly writers at U Michigan (ie A. Van Jordan) who I am also pretty obsessed with. 
  • I greatly enjoyed sitting in on an MFA workshop with Alice Fulton when I visited there. I really appreciated the advice she gave on student work. I also was really impressed and intrigued by the work of the current students there. 
  • I am excited about the chance to work on another journal next year, especially one as renowned as Epoch. I also am excited to not have to teach until my second year. U Michigan didn't want me to teach my first year, but I was going to have to be a grader for one semester, which sounds like getting stuck with all the worst parts of teaching. 
  • I am very excited about the flexibility Cornell allows in its teaching assignments the second year. I sat in on one of he "Freshmen Writing Seminars," and I was really impressed by the discussions and caliber or writing from the undergrads. I sat in on a FWS on "Crime Literature," where they were discussing a Flannery O'Connor story and workshopped one student's critical essay. 
  • Additionally, during the 2 years of post-grad fellowship, MFAs get to design their own courses and teach creative writing. My head can't stop spinning with ideas for courses I'd like to design and poems I want to assign. 
  • Also, did I mention there's a 2 year post grad fellowship and they provide one of the best yearly MFA stipends I've heard of-- with guaranteed summer funding, it's bout $27k a year. I can actually live and occasionally buy new shoes on that. Also, I know I'm going to get paid to write poetry for the next 4 years of my life. As someone who's been working more than full time since undergrad, I definitely appreciate the privilege of time to write. I should note that U Mich sounds like they are now guaranteeing a 1 year post-grad fellowship, but Cornell's funding package still sounds better and Ithaca is actually cheaper to live in than Ann Arbor. 
  • It's beautiful in Ithaca. I think I will have phenomenal legs after living there and navigating those hills. Also, I have an awesome opportunity to title a chapbook Gorge. Come on-- that is an awesome title.
  • I have never lived on the east coast and I've spent the majority of my life in Michigan (I'm in Chicago now). Although, it would be convenient to live close to old friends, I think it will be good for me to get away from the Midwest for a bit.  
  • Because Cornell is such a small program in somewhat of an isolated location, it was really important to me that the other MFA students seemed like the kind of people who would help wobble me home drunk from the bar. In all honesty, I think my mind was pretty much made up at a gay bar named Felicia's. They are just good people, and I'm excited to get to spend more time with them. 
I currently have a lease for a gorgeous 1-bedroom in Ithaca that's about a 7 minute walk from the building where most of the English courses take place. Also, Nabakov used to live there (in another unit in the building). For some reason that's really cool to me. I'm going to have lots of windows and 2 walk-in closets and room for a queen-sized bed-- all on a grad student salary. It's making my gang-tagged front door and cupboard-sized bedroom and the constant light and rattle of train tracks and 1 1/2 hour commute to work look a little less remarkable. 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Jami Nakamura Lin (Penn State, 2013)

So, this was going to be my Recruitment Weekend, Part Two, post-- but instead, it's my official acceptance post. As of August, I'm going to be a Nittany Lion, and I couldn't be more excited. As my gushing previous post probably proved, I loved everything about my time there.

Now that I'm nearing the end of this MFA journey, I probably should give a little background about me since I skipped over that part last time in my excitement for Penn State's recruitment weekend.

I'm a senior in college and a psychology major. I signed up to take my senior capstone required psychology class in the fall, but instead was assigned to the spring section. Since I had an extra space in my schedule, I thought creative writing might be fun, since I've always loved writing but hadn't had time to take it in school. So I signed up for a nonfiction class. After one of my stories was workshopped, my professor asked me if I had considered an MFA. I hadn't, because my plan was to get my master's in social work. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that writing is my main passion and that I would be happiest doing that. So I thought, why not? And delved in.

If I had realized what an arduous, painful process this was, I probably wouldn't have gone through it, so I'm glad I didn't know! Luckily, online communities provided a lot of support throughout these otherwise tortuous times.

So what am I doing for the next few months? Trying to find a roommate and an apartment, and figure out what I'm doing this summer. I applied for the Tin House summer writing workshop, but I won't be able to attend unless I get a full scholarship, so we'll see how that goes. Otherwise I'll probably just bum around until August, when I'll move to State College. I'll keep y'all updated on the process!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Iowa vs Cornell vs Michigan

My name is Mary-Alice, and I am a poet heading to Michigan this fall. I am very, very nervous about whether or not I made the right decision, as I was in the unbelievably lucky position of also getting into Iowa and Cornell, and it was impossible for me to visit before committing. I won't focus on the things I didn't like about Iowa or Cornell because I know they're great programs. They just aren't as good a fit for me as Michigan is.

That said, I think Michigan's program is the right choice for me for the following reasons:
  • Beginning with my cohort, Michigan is a 3-year program for those who choose it. We'll graduate in 2 years and have the option of taking a $25k fellowship to complete a book over the course of a year. This development sealed it for me. It appears that if I want to stay and teach for a 4th year, that may also be possible.
  • The size of the program (22) seems just about right. Iowa has almost 50 students each year, and Cornell has 8. Both extremes in size turned me off. I've already received a lot of personal attention from the faculty, and I think I will be able to form close relationships here without feeling stifled.
  • My first year I will have no teaching responsibilities, so I can intern at the University of Michigan Press, Canarium Press (a new poetry press), and the Michigan Quarterly Review for a few hours each.
  • My second year I will get experience teaching both composition and creative writing. I will be given wide latitude in designing and teaching the creative writing course. Michigan's pedagogical training looks amazing.
  • I like the academic emphasis of the program. There's a required reading list to ensure everyone has a solid background, and each semester we are to take an academic course along with the workshop. H0wever, there's a lot of latitude in this requirement, with MFA students often being allowed to do creative projects instead of writing term papers. And it's easy enough to substitute writing courses (I plan on taking creative nonfiction this fall).
  • The University of Michigan has a great reputation around the world, and therefore offers strong classes in every department I might explore, a good alumni network, and world-class facilities.
  • Even though I hate winter, I could see myself in Ann Arbor for 3 or more years. It's diverse and progressive with a fabulous literary scene, has the most bookstores per capita of any city in the US, and is consistently ranked as one of the best places to live. There's not so much to do that campus life suffers (I wouldn't want to go to school in NYC for this reason), but there is enough to do that I wouldn't ever be bored.
  • No particular aesthetic is championed or encouraged. There is no homogenizing effect.
  • This doesn't mean much, but Michigan had one student in poetry win the Stegner, while Iowa had none in poetry. This leads me to believe that going to Iowa would not necessarily give anyone an advantage in winning the Stegner, something I hope to do after my 3 years at Ann Arbor.
  • Michigan has dedicated advisers who help students navigate the job market after graduation and hosts colloquia on publishing and teaching periodically. Iowa explicitly says it doesn't have the resources to do this.
  • The students just seem really damn happy, united, and enthusiastic. They're always together socially, and have organized an informal first-year reading series to prepare for the second-year series, which attracts a sizeable audience. I have no doubt that everyone in my cohort will be passionate and talented. I have a lot to learn from them.
  • Last and perhaps least, there is the amazing funding. In addition to the comfortable stipend, there is money to do internships, to travel and do research, and the opportunity to win tens of thousands of dollars in prizes.
There were lots of other random, tiny perks (I'm actually excited about exploring Detroit when/if I have time), but in the end, I just did my research, talked to lots of current students at each place, and went with my gut. I hope I have made the right decision and I will continue to chronicle my experience at Michigan here.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Penn State's Recruitment Weekend (part one)

Greetings, current and future MFA-ers! My name is Jami Nakamura Lin (to differentiate myself from this lovely lady, who unfortunately happens to be an author) and I hail from the outskirts of Chicago. I currently am finishing up my undergraduate studies (in psychology!) at a small liberal arts school, and will be headed to an MFA program in the fall for creative nonfiction. I'll write more about me later, but for now I want to talk about Penn State. I just spent the weekend there, and they suckered me in hook, line, and sinker.

I've also been accepted to Portland State and Miami of Ohio (which is an MA creative writing program), and waitlisted at Ohio University (also an MA program). Although I love Portland, they couldn't offer me funding, and since I gots no monies, that isn't really an option. Miami of Ohio and Penn State offered me similarly generous funding offers, so money isn't really an issue in making a decision between the two.

Penn State, however, has been above and beyond helpful through this whole process. The director, Bill Cobb, put me in touch with several current students who very eagerly and thoroughly answered all my nagging, tedious questions. Every time I was confused about something, I got a response right away.

But on to the recruitment weekend!  Here is a shortened version of what happened, and I'll post a longer, less-relevant version on my personal blog later (probably tomorrow).

I knew Penn State held a recruitment weekend because I obsessively read this blog through the fall and read all of Emily Anderson's posts, but I still wasn't really sure what to expect. The weekend officially started on Friday, but because I had previous commitments, I wasn't able to attend until Saturday morning. I missed out on a reading and a pizza party. The English Department had us stay at the local Atherton Hotel, right downtown. I walked in late on an info/Q&A session for all the incoming MFA and MA/PhD students. Most of the questions were more relevant for the MA/PhD students than for us MFA-ers, and I was still feeling dislocated. But then there was a special lunch at an Indian restaurant just for the MFA students. There were six of us recruits-- two per genre. Most of the current MFA students were there, and we sat at separate tables by genre, and just got to chat with them and find out more about the program.

What really struck me was the dynamic of all the people in the program. It's very small, but from everyone I've talked to, it's a very open, encouraging community. There's no cutthroat competitiveness, and you know everyone personally. I come from a really small college with a similar sense of community, and felt really comfortable with the MFA students right away. Again, above and beyond helpful.

One of the students then gave us a mini-tour of the campus-- we got to see where readings were held, where the literary magazines were, the TA offices, a typical classroom, basically all the English-related places. A bit later, there was a faculty round table discussion where each member of the English department went around, told us about his or her area of expertise, and whatever else they felt like. That was long, but very informative. Afterwards, I got to talk to Elizabeth Kadetsky, one of the nonfiction professors, and discovered she went to school with both Aimee Bender, my favorite author, and Alice Sebold. I promptly fell over and died. In reality, I probably just gaped unseemingly. She was very gracious and helpful and remembered all these small details from my writing sample and SOP. I was amazed.

After that, there was a wine and appetizers event at the University Club across the street, where all of the incoming students, some current students, and all the faculty mingled for a couple hours (and where I gorged myself on pinot grigio and cheese cubes). I met most of the MFA faculty, and learned a lot more about the program. One thing I'm very excited about is the Writer in the Community class, where you basically go lead workshops in non-academic settings like shelters, nursing homes, etc. Since I want to be a writing therapist, this was right up my alley. I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but everyone was just so nice and genuinely interested in me and my writing. I felt so welcomed. Then two of the other MFA girls and I went downtown with a couple current MFA students who showed us around. It was a great time.

This is super long already so I'm going to stop for now-- I'll write part two later and there will be more inane rambling on my personal blog.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alana Saltz (Vermont College of Fine Arts, 2013)

Hi everyone, my name is Alana. I hail from sunny Los Angeles, California. It's very exciting for me to be here as a contributor to this blog.

I started my obsessive MFA research/application process over a year ago and remember stumbling onto this site. At that time, I was finishing up my last semester of college, getting ready to graduate mid-year and move back home until I figured out what to do next. As I came face to face with a frighteningly uncertain future, I started to think about what I wanted to do with my life, and the idea of getting an MFA in Creative Writing came about.

Since the age of 12, it's been a dream of mine to write a memoir (I know, I was a weird kid). Writing has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, so a Creative Writing MFA seemed perfect. I only applied to three programs in Creative Nonfiction. I knew it was a long shot, but because I was applying last minute with no GREs, in a less common genre, and was hoping to stay on the West Coast, my options narrowed down very quickly. I received three thin envelopes in the mail a few months later.

After my total MFA rejection, I concentrated on finding work. Since graduating college, I've taught creative writing classes at senior centers, copyedited theses for graduate students, and very briefly had an office job that I had to quit after I was asked to write fraudulent college admissions essays. It's a tough world out there for anyone, and as a little-to-no work experience English major, I was no exception. I couldn't even get hired at a bookstore or cafe. But I tried to make the most of my time of relative unemployment by doing things like starting a local writing group and adopting a dog.

Exactly a year after my initial MFA interest came about, I was having a conversation with a writer friend, and the subject of low residency MFAs came up. The first time around, I had written them off without any research, but this time I had already decided that the traditional MFA was not an option I wanted to pursue again. Low residency presented me the option of staying in L.A. and of keeping me somewhat involved in the working world. As I learned more about low residency and all of its advantages, I got really excited about the idea, and decided to apply.

I got a few acceptances, but I fell in love with Vermont College of Fine Arts' program. I officially start at the end of June with my first 10-day residency in Montpelier. I'll be studying Creative Nonfiction with an incredible faculty including Sue William Silverman, Robin Hemley, and Xu Xi. I think that low residency programs are a hidden gem in the MFA world. However, more and more recent college grads are applying to low res programs not because they have full-time jobs or families, but on the programs' own merits.

I look forward to continue blogging about my MFA experiences here as well as over at my personal blog and to following others along on their own MFA journeys.

Trying to Figure It All Out

"Bring on the wonder, bring on the song; I pushed you down deep in my soul for too long...." That song by Susan Enan, as innocuous as it may seem, was one of the little things that pushed me to apply to MFA programs last fall. After graduate education in the health sciences, I finally realized that after working in the journalism field for over a year, I was happiest when writing. I'd been trying to deny it for so long, and go with something more "practical", whatever that means. My research was primarily in oncology, and too many times I'd seen how short life is. No one is ever promised tomorrow, and I decided I did not want to live with regrets, so I applied to MFA nonfiction creative writing programs and one PhD in journalism. Even just making that decision changed my life - for the first time in a long time, I felt excited about my life. I felt alive. And just when I was starting to give up all hope and question my abilities and whether I would ever find my way, I got a phone call that I was accepted to Columbia University's nonfiction program. I'd applied to Columbia not because I thought I would get in, but because it was "Columbia" and I figured, why the hell not? I didn't even fill out all the financial aid forms because I was that sure I didn't have a shot. But you can bet I filled those forms out after the phone call!

It is scary, the financial aspects. But I have taken out loans for graduate school before, and know that it is a sacrifice and risk that will pay off. I believe in it. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out that there are a lot more financial aid opportunities available than I originally thought, as well as an Artists' Resource Center that can provide financial resources. So I am gearing up to take that leap of faith.

As of right now, I have not decided what I will be doing in the fall. I currently live in Chapel Hill, NC, and love my life there. The Carolina Way has seeped into my veins and UNC and the surrounding areas have been my home for the past 4 years. I am actually still waiting on their PhD decision, as well as another school's MFA decision. So until I receive all my notifications, my final choice is up in the air. Columbia's final decision date is actually later than April 15th, so I have some breathing room, thankfully.
I went to the city the other day, since I am up North visiting family, and had an excellent visit. The students were on spring break, but I was able to talk to the financial aid guy and some administrators in the Writing department, as well as see the classrooms and get a thesis anthology of last year's students, a student handbook and a course listing packet. As a psychology nerd, it is hard not to get super excited about the fact that the neuropsychiatrist Oliver Sacks is a nonfiction professor in the program. Individual fit is important in a program; for me, if the fit isn't right, I don't care who is teaching the classes, what the program is ranked, what city I'm in or if tuition is dirt cheap or funded. And for whatever reason, I felt like I "fit" there. It was a gut instinct.

This still doesn't even feel real, like this is my life - not just the MFA acceptance, but the fact that I have even been brave enough to finally take my writing seriously, and to trust this process, this journey that life is leading me on. Last summer, when I was talking about deciding to pursue writing, I mentioned that it seemed so "self-indulgent," to pursue writing, an art. And I was met with this reply: If you don't indulge yourself, who will?

Truer words were never spoken.

Friday, March 18, 2011


My name is Mike Mlek* and I believe in miracles. Since I applied to MFA programs almost four months ago, I have been searching for signs that would tell me where I might get accepted or when I might hear back from particular programs.

If Colorado beat my current school, Kansas State University (where I am finishing my M.A. in English and Creative Writing), in basketball, that meant I'd be rejected there. (True.)

If I accidentally stumbled upon a book by a professor at Cornell while browsing at the library, that meant I'd get in there. (Nope.)

If a city that could be my future home popped up in the news, my head would explode in nikhedonia.

I've always been like this, I think. But my search for signs, coincidences, omens, spotlights coming out of nowhere and saying, "Look. Here," has become more intense as I've gotten older (and, maybe ironically, smarter). In my first semester of college, now seven years ago, I wrote a paper for philosophy class defending fatalism by examining the significance of coincidences. When my friends and I competed in the 2009 National Poetry Slam, we kept track of all the negative things that happened to us on the trip, insisting that each bad occurrence was an omen predicting our future success--and we went on to win the tournament. Now, I just have the general sense that my life has worked out so well thus far, whoever is in control of it (me, God, the Architect of the Matrix) must have it all planned out.

For the novelist Milan Kundera, motif and coincidence are governed by the laws of beauty, and they are to be found in real life the same as they are found in novels. “It is wrong, then,” he writes, “to chide the novel for being fascinated by mysterious coincidences, […] but it is right to chide man for being blind to such coincidences in his daily life. For he thereby deprives his life of a dimension of beauty.”

On February 23rd, I got into the MFA program at the University of Pittsburgh, and I was offered a Teaching Assistantship about three weeks later. Now I'm looking for signs that I should go there.

I. I've learned that August Wilson left his native Pittsburgh for St. Paul, Minnesota. Now I've been given the opportunity to leave my native St. Paul for Pittsburgh.

II. The other night, a performance poet named
Buddy Wakefield, who was one of my first favorite poets when I was coming up, performed at my school and I opened for him. He said something about a church bartender, which reminded me of a church in Pittsburgh that has been transformed into a brewery and restaurant.

III. Yesterday, there were some college kids playing beer pong in their front yard and listening to music. As I walked by on my way to the bar where I run a poetry reading series, the song
"Black and Yellow" came on.

I don't plan on actually basing my decision on coincidences and omens. Actually, I've yet to even receive another offer. I'm waitlisted at Minnesota (6th on the waitlist) and Indiana (no further info), and flat-out rejected at Iowa, Cornell, Colorado, and Missouri's PhD. I am assuming rejection from McNeese State University, and still waiting to hear back from Purdue.

Aesthetically, geographically, and in terms of motif-prophecy, Pitt is the perfect fit for me. I deeply admire the poetry and poets they produce; they have a new focus on genre crossing and hybrid forms, which I love; the city sounds amazing (and similar to my hometown, Minneapolis-St. Paul); they're one of the few MFA cities I applied to that are home to a poetry slam.

Pitt's big drawback, for me, is that I'd be teaching composition for the first two years (and possibly all three). I want badly to teach creative writing, and I want to be competitive for a tenure track position immediately after my MFA, which means, I think, I need creative writing teaching experience. And, while Indiana is a less attractive program to me in terms of aesthetics and geography, six of the nine courses I would teach there would be creative writing. (Ooh. One of my poetry slam teammates and best friends, Khary Jackson, uses the stage name "6 is 9." A coincidence in favor of Indiana.) Either program would leave me with a good narrative: my fiction professor (not my real genre, by the way) got her MFA at Pittsburgh, and my major professor/mentor got her MFA and PhD at Indiana. If I move off the waitlist at the latter program, I'm in for a difficult decision.

For now, though, I spend my free time Googling Pittsburgh, reading about the city and looking at its skyline, its bridges and rivers, its history rendered in black and white. They call it the Paris of Appalachia, equal parts mountain and midwest and east coast. If it were a text, it would be a hybrid form. I, not knowing why my great grandparents came here from Poland, Pittsburgh, having watched its steel mills close--we both know the breakdown of narrative and tradition; we both still believe in resurrections.

I don't yet know where I'll end up. I might blog some more, here, about the decision-making process, and I'll definitely be back when it comes time to move. Nice to meet you, MFA Chronicles.

*My name isn't really Mike Mlek, but I don't want this to be what pops up when my name is Googled. Here's me and my real name.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

a nerve and rainbow sandwich

Hi everyone out there in MFA-land. My name is Quinn and this fall I'll be attending Virginia Tech for poetry.
Before Tech accepted me, I was starting to think that I might suck. I couldn't look at my portfolio for fear that its awfulness would cause my eyes to combust.
One morning, however, after hugging my cat and asking him to share his magic with me, I received a call from the assistant director of the CW program. She wanted to schedule an interview. I fell upstairs in a fit of joy, spraining my ankle. The next day I limped around campus with a smile on my face. I couldn't be the worst if they wanted to talk to me.
But a new cloud of worry soon gathered: how will I survive this phone interview? Will I forget how to say my name? Will I drop a deadly sentence that causes the poetry committee to draw a thick black "x" over my application?
[ ADVICE: prepare for your interviews, future applicants. Study the work of the people who'll be interviewing you. Write down a practice dialogue. Make a list of questions. Think about why you want to attend the school. I woke up early, ate a banana, and meditated before my interview. ]
I must not have made a fool of myself because a week later I read an email whose subject was "VT MFA Acceptance." That afternoon I had a ten minute dance party. My cats hid under the bed as I informed them: "I don't suck! I don't suck! They like me!"
Now, however, a new, vicious storm gathers. Will I continue being a decent poet? Will I disappoint those who admitted me? Eeep. My cuticles have never looked worse and I'm still deferring to my pre-acceptance stress diet of cupcakes and cheeseburgers. Sometimes, however, like when I listen to the "Funny Girl" soundtrack, or when I'm driving in the Alabama sunshine, I feel like a rainbow machine. I feel like I can conquer all nerves and leave pots of gold in my wake.
So, this blog shall cover the dissipation and re-conglomeration of my anxieties as I head into my first semester. I'm getting married in a month. We're moving to Blacksburg. With two cats. There will be drama. And hopefully ice cream! I'll post pictures. Will I fight monsters? Will I forget how to speak English? Will I make fantastic friends? Will workshop melt my face? We'll see!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's The Final Countdown!

Cue music.

In 85 days, I will quit my job, pack my car, and move from Cleveland, OH to NYC. Three months ago, I moved out of my two bedroom house and into the spare bedroom of my mother's apartment, which I have to share with my two fat cats because they think my bed is their bed (and I let them because they're cats and cats are all kinds of awesome). In NYC, I will be sharing a bedroom with my 17 year old niece until she goes off to college in the fall. It sounds crazy, doesn't it? Uprooting my spacious and comfortable existence to an entire life contained to one bedroom and then moving 600 miles to share a room with a teenager. But, I'm a writer and this is what I must do.

It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do with my life once I graduated high school. I was so not ready the first time I attempted college that I got a D in Choosing a Major. It's exactly what it says on the tin: a the class designed to help undecided folks choose a major. How do you get a D in Choosing a Major? I have no idea, but I did and I will one day find a way to be proud of that. I dropped out of college and it wasn't until 5 years ago that I finally decided I needed to finish college. I went back to school, got my degree in English with a concentration in creative writing, thought about teaching English overseas but realized I don't like teaching or children, toyed with being a librarian, and realized all I want to do is write. And someday get paid for it. But I'll take just writing for now. Writing is the only thing I can do (and do semi-well).

I graduated from college last summer and thought if I had to get a job, I wanted to work where the books are made. The publishing industry was calling me, so I decided that I needed to move to NYC and move in with my older sister who lives in Queens. But then I figured, hey, if I have a once in a lifetime chance to mooch off my sister, shouldn't I take full advantage of this opportunity and get an MFA in creative writing? The answer was undoubtedly, YES I SHOULD.

So I applied to almost every school in NYC that has an MFA program. It was hard and tiring and I'm stressed out waiting on replies from my top choice schools (Come ON already, guys! You're tearing me apart!) but I've received two acceptances to two reputable programs and no rejections (so far). I'm excited about the future and what awaits me in NYC but I'm also a bit nervous about all of the changes coming up. More than anything, I am super pumped for the chance to pursue my dreams and can't wait to start on the next phase of my life which I am positive will be crazy cool.

You know what they say - if you can make it in NYC, you can make it anywhere. I'm counting on that, because I don't know where I will end up after I get my MFA, but for the next two years I'm going to concentrate on my writing and absorbing as much as I can from this experience. I'm glad to be part of a group of people who can share this experience with me and make these next two years even richer just by being a part of this blog. I'm eagerly awaiting the future and I am sending positive thoughts to everyone finishing up an MFA program, contemplating applying to an MFA program, or anxious to begin a program in the fall.

All the best, and keep writing!

I'm an oldie, but a goodie!

Hello, all you curious MFAers!  I may be older than many of you out there, lost in the dredges of MFA applications, wait-lists, scary decisions and binge drinking, but I feel ya. 

I sit here today with one admission under my belt and a definite sense of accomplishment. In retrospect, I probably  should have taken more time to research and debate my options, but I had some limiting factors like a mortgage, a hubby, and a semi-feral cat that would not have taken kindly to being uprooted from the only backyard he's ever known, so after a lot of thinking and some discussion with my better half, I applied to schools that were: one- in my city, two- 1 hour away,  and three- 1- 2 hours away. I can't imagine doing this with kids, but to all of you out there that are, or are planning to do it, I salute you!

It was a tough process and if you've been out of academia for a while, like I have, it can be jarring. It has taken roughly 9 months from the time I decided to apply up until my first notification. The entire process has been one big whirlwind that I'm still dizzy from. Here's how it went:
Internet research. Top 50 MFA Programs. Programs in Florida. Program application requirements. Study for GRE. Take GRE, meh. Hunt down old professors and supervisors for recommendations. Smile at them a lot and offer baked goods. Make final program decisions. Draft a writing sample.Thanksgiving. Revise writing sample. Find another sample. Polish that sample. Get feedback. Christmas. Last minute touch-ups. Submit apps to schools, whew! Keep fingers crossed and wait for responses.

I applied to 3 schools in Florida, and I have been accepted to the 2-year fiction program in my current city. Hopefully with funding, as they are not done with those decisions yet. I was rejected from another school early on, and I'm still waiting to hear back from the third. All in all I am very happy with the way things are turning out. I've researched the professors at my potential program and their strengths play to mine, this is good I think. l am really excited about being a student again and can't wait for August. Even though it seems few people around me understand what I am doing. The phrase,"…writing? what are you going to do with that?" has been uttered enough times that I might self-combust if I hear it again or any of its other variants (i.e.-"writing? that can't be too hard"). Regardless, the last half of 2010 was spent figuring out who I really was, what I wanted to do with myself, and how I was going to make it happen. Now, I'm on my way! 

I'll be 31 (I know it's not ancient, but can't help but feel a little out of place) when I enroll in the fall. I was nervous about having classmates that are so much younger, so much more prolific, successful, and impressive, but I've come to realize I'm not much different. We are all committed and determined to be successful. We all want to find our voices and hone our craft. We all have something to say and are trying our hardest to yell it at the top of our lungs. So let us be heard!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Chelsea Biondolillo - to MA or to MFA, that is the question (2013)

Evening, y'all. I am not from the South, but I've lived in it for several of the last 15 years.

This season was my second round of applications. Last year, I applied to seven MFAs and was rejected by every one of them without so much as a wait-list. I spent the last year writing, revising, and submitting to online and print journals along with literary blog/mag hybrids. It seems to have helped: my feedback this year has been knee-knockingly encouraging. Just when I really needed it.

Much of the last year was also devoted to researching programs, talking to professors, weighing the different programs against my long term goals--I ended up applying to a mix of MAs and MFAs.

Right now, five schools have extended offers, and a couple more have me hanging on the line. I plan on graduating from somewhere in two years, but I am not sure where, yet. I am trying to decide between pursuing an MA in English with a Creative Writing focus, or an MFA in nonfiction. I have become the queen of overthinking, overanalyzing, and compulsive list making.

I like the MA for the additional lit foundation, and marketability it would lend me as a future prospective teacher. (I would apply to an MFA or PhD after graduation.)

I like the MFA for that solid--or nearly solid--year of writing a thesis. I mean writing is why we're all here, right?

Not to mention that each of the schools have their own strengths and weaknesses. Ayiyi.

There's still a month to go, and I am sure there yet remains a course catalog out there I can cross-reference to the Farmer's Almanac. Got any runes I can borrow? Can anyone pitch a lucky number my way? Do you know which colors are most auspicious for Oxen/Geminis?

Next time I drop in I will talk some more about what I see as the pros and cons of each program. Maybe I will have even picked one.

'Til later, CB
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