Assemble a Quality Portfolio
5 tips for choosing work that best displays your talent for writing.
Whether you’re assembling writings to submit to an MFA program or to share with a local writers’ group, it’s important for you to select work that shows your full range of talents. Sometimes it can be difficult to find the objectivity necessary to evaluate our own work. If you’re unsure of which pieces to choose, consider these tips from award-winning writer Fred Leebron.
- Select your strongest work. Don’t worry if it is not self-contained and complete. Choose the best 25 pages of your novel or memoir, or the best 10 pages from your long poem. Fellow writers understand the concept of a work in progress.
- Select work that demonstrates ambition and risk-taking. You don’t necessarily have to be doing the literary equivalent of jumping off a cliff, but in general it is true that the more risk you take in the work, the more rewarding it is for the reader and the more invested in it you are as a writer. Speaking of which…
- Select work that you are truly invested in. Choose work that has cost you in some way to write it. Choose writings that you care about and feel passionate about.
- Make sure that it is error-free. While content may be subjective, typographical errors and misspellings are not. As one agent I know likes to say, “If you don’t care enough about your work to make it perfect, then why should I care enough about it to read it?” The work you put into polishing it and making it error-free will say a lot about your investment in your work.
- Demonstrate your critical skills. If you also are submitting an essay about your writing goals, share how you feel you might improve. What are your weaknesses? How do you hope to strengthen your skills? What do you hope to gain by pursuing a writing degree or joining a group of writers? One of the best ways to meet your goals is to clarify what they are.
Online Library Access
As a student in the Cedar Crest College Pan-European MFA in Creative Writing, you will have full online access to a variety of library databases. Our resources include:
- WorldCat: The World’s Largest Library Catalog
- Wilson Full Text, which includes Humanities Full Text and Biography Reference Bank, the entire Project Muse, the full set of SAGE Journals Online, SpringerLink, and Duke University Press
- PALCI, the Pennsylvania Academic Library Consortium, Inc.
- Libraries of other schools participating in LVAIC, the Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges
- Medical Library Association
In 2012, the College will be enhancing its holdings by purchasing the online Dictionary of Literary Biography and subscribing to JStor, an online database of major journals in arts and literature that contains more back files than Project Muse.
Accessing Online Technology
The Cressman Library at Cedar Crest College offers online instructions for accessing its databases and journals using online technology. There are also several ways to contact the library online, depending upon the nature of your question. In addition, should a student need to read a paper journal article, the library can scan the article into a PDF file and e-mail it to the student.
Distance Learning 101
Receiving quality instruction doesn’t require setting foot in a classroom.
Simply put, distance learning means receiving education from instructors who are not physically standing in front of you. That is, they are separated from you by distance or sometimes by time. Distance learning is an especially wonderful model for the MFA in Creative Writing, because it enables students to receive instruction and guidance from acclaimed writers from all over the world via technology using e-mail and Skype sessions. Likewise, you can communicate with fellow writers in the MFA program via these means, regardless of where you live or write.
Even if you don’t consider yourself technologically savvy, Cedar Crest College offers plenty of support to help you engage in distance learning as part of our Pan-European MFA in Creative Writing.
This program requires:
- A basic understanding of how to access the Internet
- An ability to use e-mail
- Familiarity with Microsoft Word
To help students participate in distance learning, Cedar Crest offers:
- Web-based tutorials on the use of Microsoft Word
- Access to an e-College online tutorial on distance learning
- Online access to our full library database
- Computer support from the College’s IT department
For any additional questions you might have about distance learning, please contact your admissions counselor (firstname.lastname@example.org).