Friday, November 17, 2006

No Barkin' From the Dog, No Smog...And Momma Cooked a Breakfast with no Hog

Happier Days

Alright, and we're back. Better moods. I think I woke up on the wrong side of the bed on Wednesday, although I did mean what I wrote. So, now that the nervous breakdown has subsided a little bit, let's do a little voyeurism, and talk some sports, shall we? Pull out the football, the cold brews, and the lipstick and panties. Err...just the football and cold brews'll do. First of all some sage wisdom on sports betting: don't gamble on the NFL this year. It is a tremendous waste of money. Something very odd is going on in Las Vegas this year, and something even more odd is going on with the middle fifty percentile of NFL teams. The Jets could beat the bears by 9 this weekend, or lose by three touchdowns, and frankly neither would surprise me. Conversely, the NCAA football scene has been rather predictable, aside from last weekend, where teams were letting spreads and points slip through their fingers like greased pigs. Anyway, I had a five team parlay last weekend that got tremendously botched by the Giants ATROCIOUS defense (had they kept the score under 38.5, I would be sitting at a blackjack table in AC right now, and not at my cubicle, but that's a different tragic story for a different blog.) For the sake of my marriage it is probably good I didnt end up with 1100 expendable dollars, as this will allow me to stay home and finish wallpapering tonight. For those of you who have never gotten into wallpaper, don't do it. It's a horrible, horrible thing. Somewhere on par, I imagine, with popping ludes, or tripping on bad Acid while watching In The Name of the Father (something a college roomate of mine once did, which made me permanently fearful of such activities.) I will be done bitching about condo renovations in early December, at which point I will share before and after photos, so I can stroke my man-ego for all the awesomeness I have brought into this world with a hammer, a power drill, and a paint brush.

Another thing consuming my life: MFA applications. For the sake of community chuckles, I am going to post all rejection letters in their entirety on here for us to share with delight. Some applications are already out the door, most will be out by early December. So here's the lineup, in order of desired acceptance, 1 (if I don't get in I will weep into my pillow, if I do get in, I will wonder if they didn't mix up my portfolio with somebody else's) through 9 (If I don't get in, I will scoff at their stupidity, if I do get in, I will wonder of they didn't mix up my portfolio with somebody else's.)

1. University of Houston (Advantages: Nick Flynn is a professor there, and has read some of my stuff; Tend to lean towards young, fresh, new styles; excellent faculty; good funding. Disadvantages: less than 5% acceptance rate; endless ball-sweat for three years, will need to adjust to lard being the missing block on the food pyramid. Wild Card: Was Nick's reading of my stuff positive enough to help me out? Can I live in Non-Austin Texas?)

2. University British Columbia (Advantages: Low-Res, wouldn't have to move; young, fresh, new styles; good faculty; no funding, but could work close to full-time; no move required; bi-annual trips to Vancouver. Disadvantages/Wild Card: If I was free-lancing and MFAing from home, would I really work as hard as I need to?)

3. Warren Wilson (See above, replace "Vancouver" with "Asheville")

4. University Minnesota (Advantages: Ground-breaking, definitely most willing program to take a risk on unusual styles; fantastic faculty; very good funding; if I am going to move, Minneapolis seems better than Houston or Arkansas, and they have Caribou Coffee. Disadvantages: I get cold easily; less than 5% acceptance rate; HEAVY teaching load. Wildcard: Would I like or dislike the greater reading emphasis compared to other programs? The weather in Portland depressed me...the weather here is probably worse.)

5. NYU (This would probably be tops--or close to it--except I am NEVER going to get in, so I pushed it down. Plus, I see NYU kids every week. They annoy me.)

6. Arkansas (Advantages: everyone I am reading went there; good faculty; awesome funding. Disadvantages: Arkansas. Wildcard: No, really...Arkansas.)

7. Sarah Lawrence (Advantages: proxmity; good funding. Disadvantages: Not a great faculty, more theory-based curriculum than I would like.)

8. Stone Coast (Portland, ME) (Advantages: See U.B.C., replace "Vancouver" with "Maine"; disadvantages: not very cutting-edge; lesser faculty.)

9. Stanford Fellowship* (* This doesn't really belong ninth, it is just a completely different opportunity than the rest. It does not end with a degree. However, they essentially pay you 30 Grand a year to write for yourself and extra money to teach, which is pretty amazing. Less than 1% acceptance rate. Seriously.)

So that's the deal. If I am being totally honest with myself I would say I have a decent shot at two: Stone Coast, Warren Wilson. I'd say I have an outside shot at 3: UBC, Sarah Lawrence, Houston. I'd say I have next to NO shot at 4: NYU, UM, Arkansas, Stanford. Rejection letters should be rolling in from December 1st thru early March.

You Kiddin' Me?! Some Thoughts on the Application Process:

For the life of me, I can't understand why all of these schools don't get together and have one common online application, and one common recommendation form. I understand the need for different schools to target their "statement of purpose" questions in different directions, obviously the Low-Res schools want you to talk about how independent you are, and how you would benefit from a one-on-one relationship over a workshop atmosphere, while the residency programs want you to say just the opposite. But honestly: every MFA student (9 out of 10) is seeking the degree because they just want time and space to write. That's it. Sure it makes a difference if you prefer to workshop in groups or to be a hermit and send your portfolio back and forth with a professir, but essentially, the writing sample should be (and to a certain extent is) all that matters. However, recommendations are pretty significant, which under the current system is unfortunate for two reasons. First, it favorst current undergrads over people like me...who is going to get a better recommendation? A kid who goes up to his professor after class and asks for one, or me, writing an email 3 years later, saying, hey! remember me?! wanna write me a recommendation?! And then, the fact is, the professors have to write between 5 and 10 different versions of the recommendation. It is stupid and foolish.

I understand that studying for the LSATs and the GMATs, etc. is extremely difficult and taxing. However, I will NEVER be convinced that the waiting period (between appliaction send-off, and notification) is more nail-biting for any program than it is for an MFA, whether it be visual art, or Creative Writing. I mean, with Law School, you can look at the GPA and LSAT scores of the recent enrollees, and at least get an idea of what your chances are. With MFA it is totally subjective. Most schools have a 3 person reading panel, who spend an hour or so each with between 10 and 20 pages of what you "think" is your best work, and you have to hope one of two things happen: all 3 of them think it is great or 2 of them think it is great, one of whom loves it so much he/she is willing to lobby the others for you. Say, that EVERY reader agrees on 4 or 5 writers whom they think are cream of the crop. That leaves about 10 slots open, and you have to hope that out of a couple hundred writing samples, yours is one of the ten that catches just one readers' eyes enough that they feel confident putting their judgment on the line to lobby for you. Half of these spots will be filled because 2 of the readers will be female readers, minority readers, or gay readers who read a sympathetic voice that they love (sorry to bring sex, and race into this, but it's a factor, as in all things...readers identify with writers for a number of reasons. An oversexual, drunken, hopelessly white slob of a professor, who loves boxing, and talking about women's legs might read my poetry and shit himself with glee. Lets hope.) Good, so there's five spots. Now you have a few hundred applicants to fill five spaces. And you have to hope that for WHATEVER reason, someone whom has never met you, and is reading a minute fragment of your life's work, latches on to something in your writing that they feel so strongly about that they fight to get you in. And the most grueling part? You have your sample on your desktop every day for the next 3+ months, and every day you will look at it, and think of a way it could have been improved. I'm already appalled with half the stuff I sent. And yet, the way this process works, that could be the stuff that gets me into one of the better programs, and laughed out of one of the lesser. 9 Rejections wouldn't surprise me. More than 2 would. But if it is going to be one or two? I couldn't take a stab in the dark at which 1 or 2 it would be. Depends which side of the bed my readers wake up on I suppose.


At 10:41 AM, Blogger Rob I said...

Tito's Burrito's rocks!

At 4:10 PM, Blogger jake said...

I'll vouch for the University of Minnesota for the extremely obvious reason that I attend the University of Minnesota:

The weather in the winter is horrendous. It's miserable. It's beyond description. BUT, i'd still prefer it over the pacific northwest. My guess is that the weather in Portland depressed you because it was gray and rainy all the time. I hate that shit too, more than anything.

Minnesota, while numbingly cold, is for the most part sunny. There are as many sunny days here as most places in the country. The fall is beautiful and the summer is pleasant. There really is no spring, it goes straight from winter to summer sometime in late April.

Anyways, I would say that if you absolutely cannot take cold stay away, but if it's sunshine you need Minnesota is probably better than most of the east coast.

Can you tell i'm a typical Minnesotan? I love talking about the weather.

Good luck with the applications.


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