School of Adult and Graduate Education
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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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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…
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.



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