The MFA Quest Continues…

So after a lovely, lovely holiday (I got a Kindle, wheee!! I know, you’re very lucky I tore myself away long enough to put up a post at all) it’s back to the MFA quest. I have another week before I must return to my day job as a secretary and I have to get at least two applications mailed off by Friday.

So, where am I in the quest? Well if this was a video game I would be deep in the dungeon, out of items, and with the closest save point two hours away. I’m at the ‘Personal Statement’ part of the application process.

I’ve been working on my poems and I have 8-12 poems I feel good about and am ready to submit, but I need to work on the Personal Statement. This is basically why I want to go to *insert school name here* and why they should let me in. That’s in a very simple nutshell. Most also want you to talk about your interest and potential as a professor (since the vast majority of fellowship offerings for an MFA in Creative Writing involve selling your soul aka teaching). I actually am very interested and excited about the chance to teach others about my passions, reading and writing, but I’m still scared to death of the very idea, but I love scary things so it works.

Now, here’s a basic rundown of how I’m approaching my Personal Statement and the things I’m trying to put in it. I’m discussing my seriousness as a writer (talking about sending off for publication, any conferences I’ve attended, etc. let them know I am ready to work at being a writer), why I want to go to this particular school and what they have to offer that no one else has (be careful about singling out one single faculty member as the only reason you want to go, that person may be gone when you attend or someone else (who may or may not have issue with your beloved professor) may read your letter), what I hope to gain from a graduate program.

Some things I will not be including: my favorite author, or comparing my work to an established author (better to not have someone who hates Mary Oliver read your letter praising her and comparing your style to her, also, don’t you want to be seen as unique not be constantly judged to someone else’s work?); bad mouthing of anyone or anything.

It is a pain in the butt but it is a necessary evil. One of the books I have found very helpful on my MFA quest has been: The Creative Writing MFA Handbook by Tom Kealey and he lists the following questions to answer in your Personal Statement:

  1. What is the reward for writing? Why do you do it?
  2. What three books have affected you the most in your life? Why?
  3. What is your writing schedule (how long and where do you write now)? What would you like your writing schedule to be?
  4. Describe a book you would like to write.
  5. Describe your strengths and weaknesses as a writer.
  6. What life events have affected your writing?
  7. What have you learned in writing classes that have affected your writing?
  8. How would an observer describe your writing?
  9. When did you first start to write, and why?
  10. Why are you applying? What do you hope to gain?

Note that you will not have room to answer all of these questions in your Personal Statement as most of them are two pages at maximum.

So that is how my quest is going! How was everyone’s holiday? Anyone have any advice about MFAs? You there. Yes you. You look like you’ve got something to type.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by South Carolina MFA, Judy Black. Judy Black said: boo, off to work on my Personal Statement for MFA programs. Keep up with my MFA quest here: http://wp.me/p1bGYd-47 […]


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