Monday, February 8, 2010

Greetings from Nick McRae (as yet uncommitted to a program)

Dear MFA Chronicles friends. You may be surprised to see me posting here and, honestly, I'm not unsurprised myself, but here we go nonetheless. I've been an avid reader of this blog since the beginning (though I only recently started commenting) and I've often wished I could join in on the conversation, so when Josh(ua Gottlieb-Miller) mentioned to me the other day that I might be able to join up as a contributor, I jumped at the idea. And, so, here I am. I look forward to interacting with you all!

As you can see from the title, I haven't decided on a program yet (and it is still early in the notification season), but I do have a few offers already, so I know I'll be going somewhere this Fall. I was originally worried about joining this blog without yet knowing where I'll end up, but I consulted Josh and Jaytee about it, and they thought it might interesting to have a contributor who's still in the decision-making process. I hope it will be. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Now, allow me to introduce myself. I'm Nick McRae (as you know), I'm 24 years old, and I'm from the tiny Northwest Georgia town of LaFayette. That's Luh-FAY-et, not La-fay-ET (there's a town legend behind this that I won't go into here!). I did my undergrad in English at the University of West Georgia, a truly great school for creative writing that no one really knows about. Being an ambitious student of poetry in a relatively unknown program, I got a lot of great opportunities, such as editing the undergrad literary journal, going to AWP on the university's dime, acting as a research assistant for my poetry professors' collaborative poetry writing text, and copyediting for the scholarly journals a/b: Auto/Biography Studies and Lifewriting Annual, among other things. A couple of summers ago I got a chance to attend the Bucknell Seminar for Younger Poets and spent three weeks in pastoral Central Pennsylvania writing poems with the good Mr. Gottlieb-Miller and others. I've had some poems published here and there, my most recent and favorite being this one at Linebreak.

Aside from poetry, I have a deep love for Central Europe that has determined a lot of my life over the past few years. When I was an undergrad, I spent a year as an exchange student at Masaryk University in Brno, Czech Republic, and I currently live and work in Slovakia as part of a Fulbright grant. Here, I teach anglophone literature and advanced English language at a gymnasium, or selective (in this case public) secondary school. This is a great gig, I love Slovakia and my school, but every day I feel more and more ready to get back stateside and start my grad program, wherever that might ultimately be!

So, friends, country(wo)men, I need guidance. I've been trying to decide how to approach blogging about the grad school waiting/decision-making process, and I'm honestly a little flummoxed. On the one hand, I would be very interested to have all of your input on the upcoming decision, the details of my offers, etc., and it might possibly be interesting to the MFA Chronicles' outside readership as well. But on the other hand, I know from spending a few years now hanging around the MFA Blog and the P&W Speakeasy that some people do not take kindly to folks making too big a deal about getting multiple acceptances and having a hard time making a choice, and that sort of thing can often lead to a lot of harsh words and hard feelings. And so I ask: what do you all suggest? Do you think it would be a bad idea to discuss these things publicly on the blog here, or should I not be so worried? What would you all be interested in reading? What guidance would you offer?

I'm so proud to be a part of this unique online collective. I look forward to hearing from each and every one of you. You're all rock stars.


  1. Hey Nick! I think this would be a great place to talk over multiple offers. For one...we're all already in programs so I don't imagine any of us in our right minds would have any hard feelings against you! lol Plus, you won't be the only one out there with multiple offers so maybe this can be a safe space for others to talk about that as well. I think it's useful info.

    I'd actually be interested in hearing about your Fulbright experience if you wouldn't mind sharing a little about that at some point.

  2. Definitely talk about them! This, however, is coming from someone who has been accepted to one of their first choices and therefore harbors no jealousy at multiple acceptances... I totally understand your hesitance, but it'd be nice to see things from that perspective.

  3. Talk about it here. I thought it was immature and unfortunate that people started suggesting that people with multiple options should keep their decision-making process more or less to themselves (on the MFA Blog.) I think it's great that you got multiple offers. What an awesome dilemma to have!

  4. Oh yes, I definitely wouldn't expect to upset any of the MFA Chronicles contributors, just possibly some of the new readers making their way over here from the MFA Blog and such. I'm with Kerry in the assertion that bitterness is an immature response to a fellow applicant's good fortune, but I just have this inborn aversion to conflict (thanks a lot, Mom & Dad) that often forces me to handle situations like this with kid gloves. Hooray for inherited interpersonal mores!

    I'm glad that the three of you are behind the idea. What about everyone else? Thoughts?

  5. Welcome Nick! Write about anything you want to write about.

  6. Yes, please! I'd love to hear your thoughts as you make your decision. I was actually wondering when the next cycle of first-year students were going to start posting here, and I think it's great that you're getting a head start. Also, your decision-making process will probably be of interest to a lot of people reading this blog, many of whom are starting to hear back from programs and who may be in the same position soon.

    (Side note: Hi! I've never posted here before, but I've been reading for a while.)

  7. Nick, I would love to read your decision process, etc.

    However, I don't know that I'd blog it, if I were you. I would have to assume that the programs' writers read these blogs. Plus, post-MFA/PhD, you could very well find yourself wanting to have professional relationships with these folks.

    I'm sure you could blog the process tastefully and with courtesy. I'd just say that there's still the risk that something you post that seems totally innocuous might piss someone off whose toes you don't want to step on.

    I know we're all supposed to be "transparent" in this Internet age of self-revelation, but I say extreme discretion is the way to go on a decision like this. My two cents.

  8. I too would refrain from making acceptances/rejections too public, even in a forum like this. Wahida is the one to talk to about this--I remember reading something on her blog about her seeing that people from the towns of the schools she applied to had been looking at her blog and she worried that this HAD affected her acceptance.

  9. Nick,

    It's a pleasure to see you blogging on here already (and congrats again, by the way, on your early acceptances).

    I'd personally like to read whatever you want to put up here, but I'll echo Jamie and Rachel M's comments--it's dangerous to post your thoughts before any decisions are final, especially with other schools not having decided on you, yet.

    What might be less dangerous is posting only positive experiences with the application process (what made an acceptance especially welcoming, things that attracted you to the school), or at least waiting until after you've heard back from all your schools to report on your decision-making process.

    Whatever you decide to write about, though, I'm sure you'll write about it eloquently (and delicately). Looking forward to reading more!

  10. Great responses, folks; these have been very helpful (and more are of course still welcome). I think that all of you are right, really. While we shouldn't be afraid to talk about our good fortune openly here in this supportive community, there is always a certain amount of caution that needs to be taken in matters like these.

    I've been thinking it over, and I think it's entirely possible to talk about this without stepping on anyone's toes, be them those of other applicants or those of people involved with particular programs.

    I think the discussion could be framed as a set of hypothetical questions, free of specific program details, that hit on some of the big (and perhaps not-so-big) concerns of an applicant having to decide between multiple offers. The comments section could then be used to offer advice, pose further questions, and generally spend time sharing our diverse perspectives on the matter.

    What say?

    Oh, and Jaytee, thanks for asking about Fulbright! I'd be happy to talk about it, and I'm sure it will come up frequently in my posts. I'll try to figure out a way to address it that will be interesting! Is there anything in particular you were interested in?

  11. Nick's very restrained and ultra-courteous when commenting on the MFA Blog, so if anyone could tread delicately and blog the decision in a smart way, it's him. And the hypothetical, stay positive approach sounds like the smartest way to go.

    I will just echo myself one more time (then I'll shut it) in my best finger-shaking voice: I am a thirty-something who works in the NYC publishing industry. I cannot tell you how many conversations I have had with friends who hire people, to the effect of "you would not believe what kids seeking jobs put online - do they realize we're googling them and looking at this stuff?" And it's not just drunkpics - it's online comments, opinions, just shooting off at the mouth. It's a public medium and a fairly permanent one - what you forget can come back to haunt you.

    Also, academia and the arts have a wonderful, idealistic side to them, but they can also be filled with petty rivalries, resentments, and conflicts. Prof A might see any public discussion as an affront in itself. Prof B might read someone else's comment and associate it with your opinion. Prof C might be mad that s/he lost another one to Prof A's program, and see the online discussion as humiliating to boot. All extreme cases, to be sure. Still, you might find yourself sitting opposite Profs A, B, or C in a job interview in 2 - 4 years.

    Anyway, I'll stop clogging the blogging. I'm sure Nick will be the essence of good taste and discretion as he considers his choice. But even so: be prudent, be prudent, be prudent.

  12. Great to see you here Nick. I recognize your name from the web :) I only applied one place but when I was deciding where to apply I did a lot of discussion online, I just tended not to use the name of specifics of the programs. I think that is the best way to go.

    Looking forward to hearing about it and the Fulbright. I looked into them but I'm an old married lady now so that is out for me!

  13. Thanks for the insight, folks. I'm going to go ahead and post the very question soon. Looking forward to the discussion!

    All best!

  14. That should be "the first question." Oops!

  15. Welcome Nick! I look forward to reading more posts from you!


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