Are you ready to be rejecteeeeeeeeeed?

Thursday February 23, 2006 @ 01:38 PM (UTC)

It’s my last week before my first application to grad school is due. I have two essays still to write, and my manuscript (writing sample) is making the rounds of my immediate family, gathering comments. I should really stop reading things like message forums full of other MFA applicants/students.

Things I’m worried about:

1. Most people are already worrying about whether they got in. Is this just because I’m applying low-residency and they’re not, so they have different deadlines? Or do all serious applicants beat the deadline by two to three weeks? Is my application, screeching in a day before the deadline, going to be viewed with disdain?

2. I have never attended a workshop or seminar on writing outside of undergrad. Will my lack of an academic career post-UG brand me as a dilettante?

3. People talk about reader’s fatigue, and not wanting to make the readers cross by sending them TWO stories which total up to one page over the page limit. What? I am sending two short stories AND two very short stories. It says ‘25 pages’, and I took that seriously! ‘Reader’s fatigue’? Damn!

4. I have to write a personal essay that answers about five questions. Is this supposed to be narrative, cohesive, amusing? Will they find my personality charming if I infuse it, or do they want some sort of formal artistic screed? How the heck am I supposed to divine their intentions?

5. I have to write a critical essay, about anything I’ve ever read, but which has to address issues of being a writer, my own writing, writing craft, et cetera. So not only do I have to narrow the field from ‘everything I’ve ever read’, but I have to decide whose writing I should analyze in order to say something about MINE.

I have read these message boards, and I have looked up other information online, but at the end of the day, I feel like an outsider. There are intangibles at work here, unwritten rules of academia, and I guess I have no choice but to ignore them. I’ll follow the directions, do my best, and then hope and pray.

At least I seem to have a better grade-point than the average forum-poster….


...when it comes to most things, including advice.

Hence, my advice would be: keep true to yourself. Don’t let performance anxiety lure you into any attempts of extra brillance or out-of-character literary trickery in your writing. Just show them who you are – you’re plenty brilliant as it is.

The purpose of your submissions are not to show that you’re already a fully-fledged author with nothing to learn. The purpose is to show the panel what kind of raw material you are. There are no right answers with these sorts of things, in my experience. Honesty shows, however, and I think that’s something they’d appreciate. Don’t try to second-guess them by producing what you think they want. Just show them how you write and tell the kinds of stories you feel most comfortable with and are passionate about.

Let them want you for who you really are.

I think I’ve already followed your advice pretty well with the manuscript—I am even worried a little bit that Marcus and the Dark, my only fantasy story in the packet, isn’t fantastical enough to give them fair warning, “SHE WILL WRITE FAIRY TALES. YOU BETTER BE DOWN WITH THAT!” I will try to keep that spirit of, “I’m applying, but I’m also showing you who I am so you won’t be surprised later” as I head into the essays. :)

I think that’s an excellent plan. :o) I don’t suppose something like The Grey City, my all-time favorite for its overwhelming ambiance, made it into your selection?

Ha! Well, Greystork, I am limited to 25 pages. I don’t know for certain how many pages the Grey City is, but I have a feeling it’s pushing 25, and it’s nowhere near done!

I didn’t realize you liked it so much—I enjoy writing it a great deal, and I actually know where it’s going. Perhaps you will see some more installments after the applications are in….

P.S. 25 pages, 12 pt Times New Roman, double spaced. Just to clarify :P

I’m sorry if I haven’t adequately communicated my fascination with your Grey City, but I would certainly be interested in reading more of it, should you decide to carry on with that theme. I can only guess, of course, but it has a certain gloomy taste to it, which, I’m afraid, appeals to my own morbid dramatic sense. ;o)


I have every intention of carrying on with it, as it is the product of certain morbid fascinations of mine. However, it is always a spur to my work to know that there is someone who will be particularly gratified by it.

P.S. You may very well have told me you’re a Grey City fan before, but I have a memory like a sieve these days!

1. Some people decided to apply many months before you did. That doesn’t mean their applications are better.
Some people like to turn things in well before a deadline. This also doesn’t mean their applications are better.

2. [too neurotic, we’re not fielding it]

3. 25 pages is 25 pages. Your writing is so good, no one will get fatigued. If they are, it’s because they procrastinated and left their application-reading to the last minute!

4. You’ve charmed everyone you’ve ever met. And you’re not supposed to divine their intentions—they want to see you strut your stuff, it’s not a code to crack.

5. You did a fine job.

Also, I agree with what GreyStork said.

2. [too neurotic, we’re not fielding it]

Dude, I’ve seen people post about how they’ve been rejected the first time, and then taken workshops, reapplied with them on their app, and been accepted. Maybe that’s supposed to be hopeful, but to me it’s scary! If I get rejected this time, I’m going to have to figure out something else to do for six months!

I totally understand your concern… I applied to one of the top art schools in the coutry without so much as a real art class under my belt! (that’s what I get for going to NRST!) And my personal essay was horribly morbid and weird…

But guess what? I GOT IN! And I’m sure you will too. Because you have way more talent now, than I ever did then! : )

Aren’t you nice? That actually does make me feel better. :)

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