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MFAs

Fiction MFA Application Advice from Elizabeth McCracken

McCracken3Are you applying to a creative writing MFA program this year?

Graduate school applications will always be difficult, and the competition is fierce for these programs. Author Elizabeth McCracken has served on MFA juries, reading a sea of applications and helping decide who gets into a creative writing program.

She shared a huge collection of tips for aspiring writers on her Twitter page, and we collected her invaluable thoughts in a Storify post. Check it out…

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Creative Writing Program Rankings Released

The University of Iowa’s Writers’ Workshop topped Poets & Writers 2012 Rankings of Graduate Programs in Creative Writing. Follow this PDF link to see the top 50 schools.

Below, we’ve listed the to top five programs, complete with links. If you are looking for MFA alternatives, check out our post on a free edition of the Portable MFA in Creative Writing’ eBook.

Here’s more about the list: “Attorney, poet, editor, and freelance journalist Seth Abramson conducted the surveys for the overall rankings, and compiled all the hard data for the other rankings that appear in each of the tables. Full-residency applicants were surveyed on one of the highest-traffic MFA-related websites, the Creative Writing MFA Blog, founded in August 2005 by Tom Kealey, author of The Creative Writing MFA Handbook.”

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‘Portable MFA in Creative Writing’ eBook Currently Free

The eBook version of the New York Writers Workshop’s Portable MFA in Creative Writing is currently free on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble. It’s a great value for any writer during these tough economic times.

Check it out: “Get the core knowledge of a prestigious MFA education without the tuition. Have you always wanted to get an MFA, but couldn’t because of the cost, time commitment, or admission requirements? Well now you can fulfill that dream.”

We know that for many of our readers, the student loan debt load for a creative writing MFA would be unrealistic in this ongoing recession. Earlier this year, we collected five alternatives to creative writing programs–add your suggestions and commentary in the comments section.
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Penn State Cuts Creative Writing MFA Program Funding

The English department at Pennsylvania State University has cut fellowship funding for its graduate creative writing program–no new MFA students will be accepted next year.

According to The Daily Collegian, less non-tenure teachers will be available for undergraduate creative writing courses. The changes came after the College of the Liberal Arts pushed for budget cuts.

English professor Julia Kasdorf had this comment: “It’s kind of a perfect storm where you’ve got it coming from two directions. We lose our graduate student instructors, then we lose our lecture instructors, and we only have a handful of creative writing faculty to cover all classes … I’ve been talking with students, and they’re very frustrated with scheduling issues.”

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Real World Writing Camp Discourages Aspiring Writers

When you picked “writer” as your career path, did your loved ones protest?

In the video embedded above, the comedy video production company smallGrand introduced the  Real World Writing Camp. The imaginary camp’s mission is to drown the hopes of teenage writers.

In the satirical video, participants visit Bushwick, Brooklyn–”home to the country’s largest concentration of unemployed MFA graduates.”  Teens are paired with a miserable writer to discourage their writing dreams. What do you think?

Inside James Frey’s Fiction Factory

Writer James Frey has launched  Full Fathom Five, a company focused on producing commercial young adult novels co-written with a team of aspiring writers. A New York magazine feature explored the fiction factory, and one writer declared:  “It’s a crappy deal but a great opportunity.”

Frey introduced Full Fathom Five at a Columbia University MFA seminar. Suzanne Mozes, one of the nine Columbia students present at Frey’s talk, wrote about the experience for the magazine. In an interview, Frey once compared the operation to Andy Warhol’s Factory.

Here’s more about the company’s contract: “In exchange for delivering a finished book within a set number of months, the writer would receive $250 (some contracts allowed for another $250 upon completion), along with a percentage of all revenue generated by the project, including television, film, and merchandise rights—30 percent if the idea was originally Frey’s, 40 percent if it was originally the writer’s.”

Frey has already achieved successes with writer Jobie Hughes, another Columbia MFA student. The pair co-wrote the science fiction book, I Am Number Four, under the Pittacus Lore pseudonym. The book trailer is embedded above.

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Writing Professor’s Email Generates 75,000 Hits on Gawker

jth_pic.gifYesterday Gawker published the complete text of an email written by author and Columbia professor Janette Turner Hospital (pictured, via). They called it “the world’s haughtiest email,” sparking a debate about relations between MFA programs around the country.

The email invited University of South Carolina students to attend writing events at Columbia University, but angered USC students in the process. Go to Gawker to read the complete text. What do you think?

Here’s Gawker’s take: “She sent MFA students at her old school, the University of South Carolina, the following note about their inferiority. It is amazing. Hospital sent this note to all of the MFA students on the University of South Carolina listserv. More than one of them forwarded it to us. ‘We’re all enraged,’ one MFA grad from USC tells us.”

James Franco Cameo in Gary Shteyngart Book Trailer

Author and actor James Franco makes a cameo in the book trailer for Gary Shteyngart‘s upcoming novel, Super Sad True Love Story.

The trailer also includes cameos from authors Edmund White and Mary Gaitskill–taking a peek at his work with MFA students as well. What do you think? Will cameos be the next big trend in book trailers?

Here’s more from the site: “The author of two critically acclaimed novels, The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan, Gary Shteyngart has risen to the top of the fiction world. Now, in his hilarious and heartfelt new novel, he envisions a deliciously dark tale of America’s dysfunctional coming years—and the timeless and tender feelings that just might bring us back from the brink.”

Earlier this year, we wrote about Shteyngart’s eBook dystopia. (Via Vulture)

Lionel Shriver Exposes “Something Unwholesome” About Creative Writing MFA Programs

Novelist and MFA-graduate Lionel Shriver gave her candid opinion about higher level writing courses in an interview with Big Think last week. Watch the video embedded above to find out what she thought.

The author of So Much for That expressed some reservations about writing programs, despite the fact she has studied and taught writing. What do you think?

Here’s an excerpt from the interview: “it does have a kind of indulgence, middle-class gestalt. The grim truth is that most people who get MFAs will not go on to be professional writers … My husband is a jazz drummer and he has the same sense of queasiness about teaching jazz drumming. There’s more of a career in teaching jazz than there is in playing it right now and so at the very best, most of the students are going to go on to become jazz instructors. So there’s something a little corrupt in that, something unwholesome. And I share his discomfort in participating in it.”