Thursday, October 10, 2013

Advice for MFA Applicants

Are you thinking about applying to an MFA program?  I’ve recently come across some good links offering smart advice for applicants, so read on:

Brian Evenson Gives Advice for Future MFA Applicants (Thank you, Matt, for this link.)

4. Be honest, but “we’re dating and getting serious” honest rather than either “First date honest” or “Now that you’ve proposed, here’s all the stuff you need to know about me (like the fact that I killed my first wife)” honest. You can and should talk about your struggles and successes and trials and etc., but in moderation.

1) What are MFA programs looking for in a portfolio? What should I submit?Submit your best work. That being said, if you want to be safe, you can choose to believe this nugget of truth: admission committees are looking for a sense of completion in an applicant’s portfolio. When I was a kid learning jazz  piano for the first time, my tutor insisted that I play song straight with careful attention to each and every note’s value. She reasoned that, once I could prove myself as capable of playing the song as-is, I could jazz it up to my heart’s content. It’s the same idea here. While it might be really awesome to submit your 2nd person stream of consciousness vignette novella written from the perspective of a pack of zombie wolfhounds, it also might be a good idea to just write two conventional 10-15 page short story. Poets, do the opposite; write your poetry in a 2nd person stream of consciousness discordant vignettes written from the perspective of a pack of zombie wolfhounds.

And, well, my own (always excellent!) advice:  Do Writers Need an MFA?

While many graduate programs have “famous” writers you revere and admire on the faculty, being a “famous” writer doesn’t automatically make one a good teacher. So when you’re considering plunking down the $$ to go to a graduate program, do your homework and check out the faculty.

And remember, we always welcome your application at the Converse low-res MFA where I teach. Details here.


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.