Posts Tagged ‘AWP’

How To Find the best MFA program in Creative Writing (for you)

Summer is a time when many prospective MFA students begin searching for programs. Or maybe you’ve already begun that search, but it is now intensified as the application season approaches. Those who want to apply for an MFA need to have a good idea of their top choices soon, so they can work on crafting their writing samples and honing their statements. Application deadlines range from December to March, with most falling in January or February, so it’s not too early to start hunting for the perfect programs.

One of the best resources for this search is still <a href=”; rel=”nofollow”>The Creative Writing MFA Handbook</a> by Tom Kealey. I recommend it to my undergraduates (and often let them borrow a copy) not only because it has a good list of programs (though that list is getting a little dated), but also because it gives good advice on choosing a program. The best advice Kealey gives is that you should find the best program for you, which is not necessarily going to be the top-ranked program. He goes into much more detail about the kinds of choices that exist. Things to consider are the culture of the program, the kind of writing that the professors do or that recent graduates have done, as well as cost, location, and program structure. Finding the right programs for you to apply to is complicated. In his guide, he doesn’t give a ranking of programs because everyone’s rankings ought to be different. He does give valuable information about the programs he lists, though more programs have sprung up since the book was published, and programs change over time.

For up to date information, consult guides like those found at AWP, Poets & Writers, Publisher’s Weekly, and New Pages. Each of these sources provides some different information, so it’s a good idea to consult more than one and compare what you find.

In all of these listings, you can search by state, by genre, by type of degree, etc. This can help you narrow your search. It won’t take long to realize that there are a plethora of programs to choose from and that there is incredible diversity in their offerings. This is why some serious research at this stage can be beneficial.

Of course, there are rankings of MFA programs from sources like The Atlantic or Poets & Writers. What I tell my students about these rankings is that they’re most valuable for finding out where everyone else is probably going to apply. I don’t discourage students from applying to the top-ranked schools, but I do warn them to be aware of their chances. Most of these programs have very limited enrollments. They receive many, many more highly qualified applications than they will ever be able accept. We’ve had someone get in a very competitive program, so you shouldn’t ever sell yourself short, but you also shouldn’t limit yourself to applying only to the top-ranked schools. There are many other high quality programs out there that may be a better fit and where you may have better odds. I recommend applying to a range of schools. Don’t apply anywhere that you wouldn’t want to go, but don’t be so influenced by the rankings that you overlook schools that would be a great fit for you. Consider all of your options, and you should find a program that is the best for you.

Resources like The MFA Years blog or The MFA Draft group on Facebook (the link is to 2018, but a new group is started every year) can also help you research your decision and deal with the process of applying to programs. Also, be sure to read AWP’s Advice Articles about the application process.

In the end, taking the time and effort now to research the programs that are best for you will give you a much better chance of success. Not only will you find the programs that are the best fit, but you will likely also learn a lot about who you are as a writer and what your goals are. This will lead to a clearer, stronger application, and I would hope to a more rewarding experience in the program where you eventually choose to enroll.

Catch, Knox College Magazine

This week, I had a blast from the past, an email from Knox College asking about the times the undergraduate literary magazine, Catch, had won the CCLM national prize. The acronym is for the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, which around 1990 changed its name to CLMP —Council of Literary Magazines and Presses.

The three covers above are from 1985/86, the year I was the lead editor (with Patricia Bereck for the first issue). As I recall, we submitted the winter issue (middle one) for the prize. It was fun to go back to my back issues and see what we had published. And it brought back memories of working on my first magazine — appropriately, since this week, I sent the 8th issue of Poetry South (the first one produced by MUW).

We were not the first or the last. Sean Bronzell and Ann Suchomski won the award in 1983, and we think there was at least one more in the 1990s, and Knox has won AWP’s undergraduate prize, which took over the mantel of CLMP in recent years.

Back when Sean and Ann won, and when I did our first two issues in 1986, we were still working with photographic paper and wax, when cutting and pasting really meant what it says. For the Spring issue, we got to move to a computerize typesetting machine, which still used photo paper and wax, but you could see what you were typing and could edit on screen. That way we did most of our editing digitally and didn’t have to cut and paste nearly as much. We still worked on a light table to get the layout the way we wanted, but life was much easier. Nowadays, things have come a long way, and we don’t even use paper much, just pdf files created by InDesign, so everything is digital. But there’s still a lot that hasn’t changed — especially proofreading!

How I Survived My First Tweetchat

Until yesterday, I didn’t really know what a tweetchat was. Then AWP announced they would be holding a tweetchat today using the hashtag #MFAchat. Since we have a new program and can use the exposure, I said “sure, I’ll join in!” Then i searched to find out what to expect in a tweetchat.

Essentially, it is a somewhat organized conversation on Twitter. The organizer announces the times of the chat and the hashtag. And I believe there’s a service that helps you schedule yours or at least check to see when others have scheduled theirs so you don’t have too much competition. I didn’t set this one up, so I didn’t have to worry about scheduling. AWP does this every month or so with a new topic.

To get ready for the chat, I wrote and saved about 10 tweets in advance. Since the topic was MFA programs, I wrote the main points I might want someone to know about ours. I included links to more information, and when possible a picture, though that cut into the number of characters I could use.

Doing this helped me in two ways. It was like an outline of what I might want to talk about, and it provided me with a stash of tweets to release whenever I was feeling overwhelmed by the number of tweets that were being sent on the topic, as people from all over the country wrote in questions or tweeted about their programs. Having these ready allowed me to find tweets that I wanted to respond to and actually reply or quote and address people’s actual questions. That made it feel like I was tweeting with them, not at them. But when I needed to, I had a tweet ready to send into the twittersphere on the topic, while I scrolled through to see what else had been said.

I was using the Mac Twitter App for most of this, which worked relatively well. There are other apps that may be more suited to chatting on twitter, and I may explore some of these if I decide to try this again. Given that I had some good conversations, generated a lot of favorites and retweets, and learned from other programs, I probably will try again.

As the hour-long chat wore on, I had used up my cache of tweets in the first half hour and responded to several people. I composed new tweets on specific topics, but didn’t feel like I had to worry as much about linking back to my program or describing it, because those tweets were out there. I could focus on the conversation more and just try to keep up. It was intense.

Once the official hour of chatting was over, I scrolled back through the conversation and responded to a number of tweets that I’d missed at first. I wrote a thank you to the organizers, too, and was glad to see the conversation they’d started was trending (at least others reported that it was — I didn’t have time to check. I had a few extended conversations with people and didn’t worry so much whether I kept including the hashtag. And I kept checking back in with the conversation that kept going for over an hour.

In the end, i had to leave after nearly two and a half hours of solid tweeting. I’ve checked back a few times, and I still get a few favorites and retweets on the posts I made. I’m glad I was prepared, both mentally and with some prewritten tweets. It made the experience much more enjoyable and rewarding, and i hope it made my contributions more valuable to the conversation.