MFArch Madness

Top 10 MFA Programs 2011-2012

After all of the various measurements have been taken here over the past few weeks, I’m happy to post the top 10 MFA in Creative Writing Program schools for the academic year 2011-2012. Sorry everybody has already applied, but use this for next year I guess.

TOP 10 Creative Writing MFA Programs 2011 2012

1. University of Houston

2. University of Alabama

3. Sarah Lawrence

4. San Diego State University

5. The New School

6. Washington University in St. Louis

7. University of Nevada – Las Vegas

8. University of North Carolina – Wilmington

9. New York University

10. Purdue University


(And way down at number 18 is the Iowa Writer’s Workshop. Just work on your A-Game, guys, and I’m sure you can get it done next year. After all, there’s like 100 students in your program at any given time, so it shouldn’t be tough to work through this setback.)


Well, it all comes down to the University of Houston and the University of Alabama, the Cougars Vs. the Crimson Tide. They’re both great MFA programs, obviously, so let’s get to the battle! This one is decided, democratically, by my Facebook friends. I’ll refrain from voting, because obviously I’d pick Houston, duh.

After four hours of voting, Houston takes it, 11-1!

The University Of Houston Is The Top MFA Program 2011-2012!


Yowza! For this penultimate round I thought I’d compare the number of contributors each program had in a specific journal, say, all the issues of NANO Fiction since I joined up. Buy our new issue!

















GAME 1: San Diego State Vs. Houston

Looks like Houston has had 8 contributors in NANO Fiction since issue 2.2, and San Diego State has had zero. Rats for them!

Houston advances!










Game 2: Alabama Vs. Sarah Lawrence

This matchup is a bit closer, since Sarah Lawrence has had one contributor since NANO 2.2, but Alabama beats them out with four contributors in the past two issues alone.

Alabama wins!

Here’s the bracket but I bet you could figure it out!

Round 4

Exclamation point! We’re getting closer and closer to finding out who the top MFA Program 2011 is. Today the rounds are determined by the number of alums or professors who have won the National Poetry Series at each of the schools in the past quarter century. Two creative writing programs enter, one creative writing program leaves.

Game 1: UNLV Vs. San Diego State

Going back 25 years the only person with any connection to either school I found who won the NPS is Sandra Alcosser, the founder of the MFA at SDSU, who won in 1998 with her book Except By Nature.

San Diego State advances to the Fiendish Four!




Game 2: Alabama Vs. UNC Wilmington

I had high hopes for Alabama, a program that produces a lot of terrific writing. However, they only had one person in the past 25 years vaguely related to the NPS, with Karen Volkman teaching there for one year. UNC Wilmington had zero, though, in the past quarter century.

Alabama is in the Frightful Four!



Game 3: The New School Vs. Sarah Lawrence

I had to dig pretty far back to find anything from these schools, which is weird because so many grads of both programs publish so frequently. The only thing I found for either is Marie Howe’s NPS win in 1988 for The Good Thief, and she presently teaches at Sarah Lawrence.

Sarah Lawrence advances to Fickle Four!




Game 4: Houston Vs. Wash U. St. Louis

Wash U., the first program I got a rejection from way back in the day, had no faculty or alums with National Poetry Series wins. Houston, on the other hand, had 8 in the past 25 years, the most recent being Lauren Berry for her collection The Lifting Dress.

Houston advances to Flamboyant Four!



The best thing about this round is I’m almost finished with this and can get back to posting poetry audio.  Bracket!

Round 3

Cold weather causes depression, right, and depression makes better writers? No. This round, whatever city’s average high is closer to 72 degrees will advance!

Game 1: UNLV Vs. Montana

Las Vegas clocks in at an average high of 79.9 degrees, but it’s a dry heat! Missoula’s high is 56.7. Vegas!

UNLV advances.

Game 2: Alabama Vs. LSU

Two southern schools – WHAT WILL HAPPEN? Tuscaloosa has an average high of 76, whereas Baton Rouge has an average high of 77.

Alabama advances in a nailbiter.

Game 3: NYU Vs. Sarah Lawrence

These cities are close, obviously, so this will be close. New York has an average high of 61.7, and Bronxville has an average high of 63.5.

Sarah Lawrence eliminates NYU

Game 4: Wash U. St. Louis Vs. Purdue

Agh, I’m so bored of this, but I have terrible OCD and need to finish! St. Louis has an average high of 65.7, and Lafayette, Indiana has an average high of 62 so NO DICE PURDUE!

Wash U. St. Louis advances!

Game 5: New Mexico Vs. San Diego State

Albuquerque’s high averages at 70.4, whereas San Diego’s high is around 70.8.  Yikes!

San Diego State advances to Egregious Eight!

Game 6: Florida State Vs. UNC Wilmington

Tallanasty has a high around 79.5, and Wilmington clocks in at 74. Ah, nuts! There goes my alma mater.

UNC Wilmington eliminates FSU.

Game 7: New School Vs. New Hampshire

New York, as mentioned above, has an average high of 61.7, and Durham, NH, has an average temperature of 58.7.

New School advances.

Game 8: Houston Vs. Minnesota

Houston, where I presently reside, has an average high of 79.7, and St. Paul has an average high of 55.5.

Houston wins because it’s not (that) miserable here!

Here’s the updated chart etc.! We’ll get through this together, don’t worry.

Round 2 Day 2: Last 8 Games Of Round

Sorry I took so long between these – I had about 1000 papers to grade. Anyway, this round I’m going by the maxim that longer is better. Whichever school has the longest most recent literary journal will advance!

Game 1: Oregon State Vs. New Mexico

Oregon State has Prism, which is not run by the MFA program, but I guess it will still count. The latest issue is available in electronic and print versions, and clocks in at 44 pages. New Mexico has Blue Mesa Review, and while the don’t list their page count, they do have more contributors than the latest issue of Prism. So I bet it’s longer?

New Mexico advances to Suffering Sixteen (that’s the writing version of  the Sweet Sixteen).



Game 2: Florida State Vs. Vanderbilt

Florida State has the long established Southeast Review, and they’re going up against the rookie journal Nashville Review, which looks terrific I might say. Since NR is online, I guess we’ll do it by contributors again. The latest issue of the Nash has 27 contributors, whereas the latest issue of SER has 35 contributors. Also if we were to do it by which journal had rejected me the most the results would have been the same.’

Florida State eliminates Vanderbilt.



Game 3: Rutgers-Newark Vs. New Hampshire

Don’t get me wrong – I like a skinny journal. I edit NANO Fiction, for god’s sake (BUY OUR NEWEST ISSUE LOLZ). But don’t you have a better chance of reading something good from a long journal? New Hampshire has the journal Barnstorm, and I thought Rutgers-Newark had StoryQuarterly, but apparently that’s Rutgers-Camden. Rutgers-Newark has nothing! Rats! That’s too slim a journal.

New Hampshire eliminates Rutgers-Newark. Also Barnstorm doesn’t have a cover image I could post so I just found a picture of the old Atari game of that same name.

Game 4: Minnesota Vs. Indiana

Part of me wants Minnesota to be eliminated here because I keep forgetting how to spell it. Well, it’s dislocate vs. The Indiana Review. dislocate’s latest print issue had 208 pages, and IR’s latest issue had 154 pages. Close guys!

Minnesota eliminates Indiana.



Game 5: Arizona Vs. San Diego State

San Diego State boasts Poetry International, which just published a behemoth 400 page double issue. Likewise, Arizona publishes The Sonora Review,  which doesn’t mention how many pages it is, but I have to imagine that it is not greater than 400. Oh well for them!

San Diego State eliminates Arizona.


Game 6: UNC Wilmington Vs. Virginia Tech

Virginia Tech’s journal, New River, is online, so we’ll do it by contributors again. The latest New River has 4 contributors, whereas the latest ecotone has basically a million.

UNC Wilmington eliminates Virginia Tech.




Game 7: Pittsburgh Vs. The New School

Pittsburgh has the online journal Hot Metal Bridge, which wins for coolest name. Just kidding, I know that’s not what this round is about. Next time perhaps? They had 12 contributors most recently. The New School has the journal LIT, which most recently had 26 contributors.

New School advances to Sorrowful Sixteen.


Game 8: Iowa Vs. Houston

The latest issue of the Iowa Review, out of Iowa, had 16 contributors, and the latest issue of Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Arts had 57 contributors.

Houston eliminates Iowa. Upset!



Check the big bracket below for who made the Sad Sixteen!

Round 2 Day 1: First 8 Games Of Round

Like I said, I’m making this go faster! So, na! Anyway, today’s 8 matchups will be determined by whichever school’s state spends the most on art per capita, as determined by this chart I found. (If you click on it it will try to print for some reason.) Surprise number 1: Texas is not last place! Huh, who knew?

Game 1: Texas Vs. UNLV

Well, Texas might not be last place as far as arts spending per capita goes, but it’s lower than Nevada. The state of Nevada spent 42 cents per person on the arts in entire year of 2010, whereas the state of Texas spent 32 cents per person. Dunno why Governor Perry is so intent on cutting spending for the arts when we each paid last year the same amount that we could probably find between the sofa cushions, but whatevs! NO NEW TAXES!

UNLV eliminates Texas.

Game 2: Virginia Vs. Alabama

A lot of these matchups, in case you couldn’t tell, are pretty pointless. I think today’s criterion is important, though, because there’s a strong chance that you will stick around your MFA’s city for a couple years after you finish, and it is better for an artist to live in a state that actually cares a bit about the arts.

The state of Virginia is more generous to its arts than Texas and Nevada, spending 57 cents per person all last year. Alabama, though, spent 99 cents per person. How generous! That’s like every citizen to the 99 Cent Store and buying the one item (no tax)! I would have thought Alabama would have spent much less, but that’s because everything I know about Alabama I learned from the Neil Young song of the same name.

Alabama eliminates Virginia.

Game 3: Brown Vs. Sarah Lawrence

I’m sure these two Yankee states probably spend beaucoup bucks on their arts, and yes, they “do.” I quoted that to emphasize that I don’t think any state really spends that much on the arts in case you couldn’t tell. Rhode Island spent $1.89 per citizen on the arts last year, or the equivalent of buying them each, what, four and a half stamps? New York, however, basically bought each citizen the equivalent of one of those things of gum you can keep in your cupholder, spending $2.67 per citizen on the arts in 2010.

Sarah Lawrence eliminates Brown.

Game 4 : Purdue Vs. Michigan

So in the midwest, at least with these industrial states, I feel like the citizenry would like to spend money on the arts, but is just incapable of doing so. Indiana last year spend 48 cents per citizen on the arts, which is like buying each Indianan one of those cheap bags of generic candy with the red paper top. Michigan, on the other hand, only spent 14 cents per citizen, tied for second last, which might buy you in on one hand of cards if you’re playing with six year olds.

Purdue eliminates Michigan.

Game 5: Arizona State Vs. Montana

Politicians like to throw a lot of “millions” at us to make us cringe, but I think it’s always important to remember that there are “millions” of us as well. I can’t imagine any American would turn down donating one dollar or more to the arts, if asked in those terms. Arizona last year spent 15 cents per citizen on the arts, the equivalent of a cup of coffee for every citizen (in older movies). Montana on the other hand spent a comparatively generous 48 cents per citizen, which could buy each Montanan a Twix if it’s on sale.

Montana eliminates Arizona State

Game 6: LSU Vs. UNC Greensboro

Louisiana spent, compared to the rest of the South, a lot of money on the arts last year, at $1.26 per citizen, the equivalent of sending everybody in the state a personal bag of off brand potato chips from the cheap grocery store. North Carolina, on the other hand, spent 94 cents per citizen, the equivalent of buying every citizen a quarter gallon of gasoline.

LSU eliminates UNC Greensboro.

Game 7: Boston University Vs. NYU

As mentioned earlier, New York spent $2.67 per citizen last year on the arts, which could have bought each person a small thing of blueberries if they’re on sale. (Sorry I keep mentioning food, I’m kind of hungry.) Massachusetts, however, spent just $1.49 per Massachusettsian on the art, which means they could have rented each citizen one movie for one night from Blockbuster back when they actually existed.

NYU eliminates Boston University

Game 8: Wash U. St. Louis Vs. Illinois

Missouri last year spent the 7th most per citizen on the arts of any US state/territory, with $2.30 per citizen, or a dual pack of paper towels. Illinois only spent 59 cents per citizen, which I think is like buying every citizen three bananas? I don’t know, it’s tough to keep thinking of things that cost less than a dollar.

Wash U. eliminates Illinois.

Notes and Updated Bracket

I know it’s facile to criticize states for cutting the arts when each citizen contributes so little to arts spending. They have “budgets” that need to be met, and nobody likes to imagine a world where taxes might be like ten dollars higher per year. I mean, ten bucks! That’s like a whole thing of fancy grocery store sushi! (Still hungry)

Click on this thing.

Round 1 Day 8: All 4 Games

Judging by the declining hits my blog has been receiving since I started this whole MFArch Madness, people are getting kind of tired of this whole thing. One of those people: Me. Well, I’m going to stick with it until the end (OCD), but maybe I won’t provide as thorough analysis.

For these four games I decided to look at the visible minorities on each school’s faculty, and compare that number to the percentage of minorities in the state’s population. There’s a prevailing thought (among many creative writers) that if you are a minority in academia getting a creative writing teaching job should be super easy. As an Arab, I was like, “oh, sweet, job city here I come!” But then I didn’t get a job, and since minority writers are (as I was told) getting hired like woah, I just thought that I wasn’t being hired because maybe all those Star Trek slashfics I wrote must of cropped up online again (JK LOL). So let’s take a look at the percentage of visible minorities working in creative writing programs and see how true that theory is!

Game 1: UC Irvine Vs. University of New Mexico

It just so happened that the first two schools up are located in two of the most diverse states in the country. Let’s start with UC Irvine since that’s what I wrote down first.

California is a state whose population is 60% minorities, and is one of the states that has a minority majority. According to UC Irvine’s page, there are just 4 creative writing faculty members, all of whom are white. That 0% minority representation on faculty is kind of far from the state’s 60% minority population.

New Mexico is similar to California in racial makeup, in that 59% of its population is made up of minorities. The school does a lot better than UC Irvine. According to its faculty page, there are 8 CW profs, 3 of whom are visible minorities, which equals 37.5%. Still not equal to the state’s demographics, but enough to oust UC Irvine.

New Mexico eliminates UC Irvine.

Game 2: Vanderbilt Vs. VCU

Tennessee, according to my trusty sources at Wikipedia, is 82% white. The Vanderbilt CW program has 9 faculty, one of whom is a minority, which means the faculty is 89% white. I guess that’s comparable to state population?

Virginia, on the other hand, is 69% white. The VCU faculty has 6 creative writing professors, all of whom are white. Uh oh, that 0% minority representation isn’t so reflective of your state’s population, VCU!

Vanderbilt eliminates VCU.

Game 3: Syracuse Vs. Rutgers-Newark

The state of New York is pretty diverse for a yankee state, with only 39% of its population made up of minorities. The faculty of Syracuse is substantially less diverse, with 1 out of 9 of its creative writing professors being a minority, or 11%.

Neighbor state New Jersey is a little less diverse, with a 35% minority demographic. Rutgers-Newark, however, is about on par with that percentage, with 2 out of its 6 creative writing faculty representing minority demographics, or 33%.

Rutgers-Newark eliminates Syracuse

Game 4: Minnesota Vs. Ohio State

Minnesota is a state whose population you wouldn’t presume is very diverse, and you’d also be right, as it is 87% white. The faculty at Minnesota is comparably diverse, with one faculty member out of nine being non-white, which, again, is 11%.

Ohio, the Buckeye State, also has a fairly white populace, with 85% of its population being white. The faculty at Ohio State is, however, 100% white, with zero out of its seven members representing a minority population.

Minnesota eliminates Ohio State

Final Thoughts And Updated Bracket Ready For Round Two

Clearly, there’s some serious misrepresentation going on in these creative writing faculties. Now, obviously, this is just 8 schools, so it can’t be clear if this is a problem everywhere, but of the 57 faculty members from all of these programs, all but 8 were white, which translates to 86% of them, quite a bit higher than the 65% of the US population that is white.  So get it together creative writing programs, geesh!

Click to make it so you can read!

MFArch Madness Day 7 Wrapup

On the road to determine the Top Creative Writing MFA 2011 Ranking things are starting to look clear for round two.

Florida State knocked off Hollins

New Hampshire trims Cornell (Trims because it’s an Ivy League school get it?)

Indiana de-Carbondales SIU

Oregon State out-Pacific Northwests Washington

Here’s the thing that you look at and has all the names!

Round 1 Day 7: Washington Vs. Oregon State

It’s important that you learn a little about Washington before this round commences. There.

Washington has 12 creative writing faculty, with 7 men and 5 women. That works out to be a bias towards men of 58% to 42%.

Oregon State, on the other hand, has 6 creative writing faculty, and achieves perfect gender parity! 3 men and 3 women on faculty!

Oregon State advances and the only notable alumna I could find was the Bachelorette from season 2 of that show?

Round 1 Day 7: Indiana Vs. Southern Illinois

I have a lot of friends who went through the Indiana MFA, so I know it’s got a strong reputation, but my then again sister went to SIU. Not for its creative writing program, but still. Luckily this round involved no judgment on my part.

Indiana has 10 (yes! easy!) creative writing faculty, 6 of which are women, which means (obvy) that the numbers are skewed 60% – 40% in favor of women.

Southern Illinois only has 7 creative writing faculty, 5 of which are women creating the biggest disparity of the round, with 71% of their faculty being women compared to 29% being men.

Indiana advances, and I can’t use my picture of Saluki Beer to represent an SIU-C victory. Nuts!

Round 1 Day 7: Cornell Vs. New Hampshire

I was hoping Cornell would take this one so I could post a pic of Andy Bernard from the office, but alas! (Spoilers)

Cornell has 11 creative writing faculty, 7 of whom are women, which means it is 64% women and 36% men.

UNH has 9 creative writing faculty, 5 of whom are women, which we’ve already learned means 56% are women and 44% are men.

New Hampshire advances, and not just because one of its senators has the last name Shaheen (no relation).

Round 1 Day 7: Hollins Vs. Florida State

In honor of this round pitting a women’s college against the school where one of the co-founders of VIDA teaches, the four games today will be decided by gender parity in creative writing faculty. You know what that means, right? Math! (Ugh.)

Florida State, my undergraduate alumnus, has 13 creative writing faculty, 6 of whom are women and 7 of whom are men. That means the numbers are skewed 54% to 46% for men, which is not really that large a difference.

Hollins, on the other hand, has 9 CW faculty, 5 of whom are men and 4 of whom are women. It’s still just one person different, but by percentages it means that the faculty is 56% men and 44% women.

Florida State advances thanks to math.

MFArch Madness Day 6 Wrapup

For this round, schools in cities with lower costs of living advanced, but you know, now that I think about it, maybe I should have done it the other way around. Maybe schools in places like San Francisco are more advantageous because you can’t afford to do anything but sit at home and write! Yeah, that’s the ticket! Oh well, sticking to the way I already did it.

UNC Greensboro eliminates Ole Miss

Montana eliminates San Francisco State

Wash U. St. Louis eliminates Arkansas

Boston University eliminates Brooklyn College

Here’s the big picture thing you can click on and look at!

Round 1 Day 6: Brooklyn College Vs. Boston University

It’s the battle of the heavyweights! I mean, the battle of two cities in which I’ll probably never be able to afford to live.

I was sure both of these cities would be expensive, and I was right, although San Francisco still looks as though its cost of living was at least twice New York’s. Boston squeaks by in this one, with a cost of living that’s 3% lower.

Boston University advances to next round while Brooklyn College is out, leaving only about 28 other schools from NYC left in the bracket.

Round 1 Day 6: Wash U. St. Louis Vs. Arkansas

I guess I have a lot of misconceptions about big cities being cheaper than rural southern areas. These two schools facing off means St. Louis goes up against Fayetteville.

Whelp, it actually turns out that St. Louis is 13% cheaper than Fayetteville. That doesn’t even take into consideration the human cost of living in Arkansas I”M KIDDING.

Wash U. advances to the second round, and its students can afford a half a week’s worth of medical insurance more than Arkansas’ students.

Round 1 Day 6: Montana Vs. San Francisco State

I think no matter who they were faced up against in this round, SFSU was going to be out. Here it ended up being San Francisco’s cost of living against Missoula’s.

While Missoula doesn’t exactly have the cheapest cost of living, it is 111% cheaper than San Francisco’s, which is all the way at the very end of the chart.

Montana advances, and its students can perhaps afford an apartment not made out of a cardboard box.

Round 1 Day 6: UNC Greensboro Vs. Ole Miss

When you get an MFA, nine times out of ten (unless you’re super lucky) you’re going to be incredibly poor throughout the whole experience. So today’s matchups are being determined by the cost of living in each program’s city! Whichever city has a lower cost of living wins. I used this website to determine cost of living, in case you’re wondering.

First up is UNC Greensboro against Ole Miss, which translates to Greensboro, NC vs. Olemisston, MS. I mean, Oxford.

Turns out small town Mississipi is 13% more expensive than big fancy city North Carolina. Who knew?

UNC Greensboro Advances as its grad students are able to buy 10 more Big Macs a year.

MFArch Madness Day 5 Wrapup

Some upsets, some upset stomachs. Here’s the results of Day 5, as determined by prestige of lit journals!

Arizona State eliminates the University of San Francisco

Illinois eliminates Wisconsin

NYU eliminates Penn State

LSU eliminates Florida

And here’s the big board, so click to check your MFrAcket.


Round 1 Day 5: LSU Vs. Florida

This is the only matchup of the day I felt the schools both had fairly prestigious journals, LSU with The Southern Review and UF with Subtropics. TSR is much older that Subtropics, but in such a short span of time Subtropics has established itself as one of the preeminent lit journals in the country. So I posed the question to Facebook, what else? In the end, The Southern Review got one more vote than Subtropics– a friend of mine who doesn’t read literary journals but hates the Florida Gators.

LSU advances to round two, Gators lose and go home to make anti abortion Superbowl commercials or something.

(All kidding aside, Subtropics is a great journal and also paid me beaucoup bucks for one poem, which I appreciate a lot even 5 years later.)

Round 1 Day 5: NYU Vs. Penn State

I felt a bit guilty here because I was in Washington Square and didn’t want that to tarnish the competition at all, but it looks like Penn State doesn’t even have a literary journal, so NYU takes it easily. And Washington Square is good anyway, damnit, even if they published me.

NYU advances after Penn State doesn’t show up.

Round 1 Day 5: Wisconsin Vs. Illinois

Ok, so here 14 seed Illinois takes on 3 seed Wisconsin. Illinois boasts one of the best looking literary journals out there in Ninth Letter. I mean, wow! It’s like looking at a webpage on paper. Wisconsin has a newer online journal called Devil’s Lake, but the rookie can’t compete with pure style, man, not at its age.

Illinois wins, Wisconsin is sent packing.

Round 1 Day 5: Arizona State Vs. University Of San Fransisco

This round is going to be decided by prestige of literary journals housed in each school’s program. It was sort of inspired by Readers Seth and A. Peterson’s brief conflict after the wrapup of day 1, found here. So!

First up is ASU vs. USF, which means that Hayden’s Ferry Review is going up against Switchback. I have to be honest, I had never heard of Switchback before, and they look pretty decent from their site, but this is a contest based on prestige, not quality, and I’ve been getting rejected by the Hayden’s Ferry Review for six years.

Arizona State advances.

(Cool cover, too)

MFArch Madness Day 4 Wrapup

Not too many big shocks in the MFA matchups today, but all programs were pretty evenly ranked anyway.

Houston 31, Colorado State 21

New School 98, Hunter College 73

UNC Wilmington 93, Maryland 0

Arizona 50, UC Davis 11

Here’s the updated big sheet as usual! Click so you don’t strain your eyes.


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