I woke up at almost 4…

I woke up at almost 4 a.m. today, so I'm declaring myself officially back on a normal schedule and off of jet-lag. Mostly 'cause I'm so tired of being jet-lagged. Going to bed at 8 p.m. isn't so unreasonable. You can still eat an early dinner with folks if you want to socialize, right?

I had a nice time with Ysabeau yesterday; we ended up eating lunch and talking for a couple of hours. (The grilled salmon salad with quinoa at Marshall Field's 7th floor food court is quite good, btw.) I need to remember to introduce her to the other local sf people. I don't know when I'm going to have time to do another brunch -- it seems like other social occasions are multiplying like flies. Today Alex arrives in town, though he's staying at a hotel tonight, which is a good thing, I think. He'll come to stay at our place tomorrow -- I'm also going to go see a showing of Harold and Kumar at a friend's house tomorrow night, since I missed it when it was in theaters. Saturday Jordan and Todd are coming by to join Alex and us for brunch here. Sunday is a surprise birthdaty party -- oh, wait, no -- that's next week. Okay, so there's a week's break of social activities in there -- but not for long, I bet. Something will turn up.

Quiet morning working through e-mail at the moment, then finish a response to a student packet. (Colin, if you're reading this, it's coming soon, I swear. :-) I promised I'd get this one back early because my student's going out of town tomorrow. Such an accommodating teacher I am...

Speaking of teaching, I've also been perusing The Writer's Chronicle, the magazine of AWP, the organization for academic writing programs. One of my jobs at Roosevelt will be helping to grow student applications to the program, so that we can admit more good students, so that we can hire more tenure-track teachers, including me. :-) To that end, I'm looking at the ads for various writing programs in the Chronicle. Vermont College has pretty good ads -- clean, clear, and inviting. One thing I like about their ad is that they list some of their students' accomplishments (publications, awards) as well as their teachers'. That'd make me more inclined to apply to a particular program, I think, if I had a sense of what I might concretely get out of it.

But at the same time that I'm looking for a Roosevelt ad and wondering what it'll look like, I'm also wondering whether this is the right place to advertise for MFA students. If you're coming out of college, and wanting to write fiction, and thinking of applying to an MFA program, would it even occur to you to read the Chronicle? It seems more like a trade magazine, like Locus, the kind of thing you don't become aware of until you're already in the field, immersed in that pool. I imagine really useful would be placing ads in The New Yorker and Harper's, but that's also probably insanely expensive, far beyond our means. So where do you spend your advertising money, to attract writing students?

I also think for Roosevelt, we'd want to advertise heavily locally, since there's probably tons of people already in Chicago who want to be writers. The newspapers? The subway ads? I'm just not sure...

10 thoughts on “I woke up at almost 4…”

  1. How about advertising in Analog, IASFM, and F&SF? Maybe Harpers and Atlantic if you want a more mainstream audience.

  2. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    If we do develop the genre writing element as planned, maybe that would make sense — except that Analog and the rest have really expensive ad rates, and we didn’t find that advertising with them actually brought readers to Strange Horizons. (Though maybe that was the fault of our ad, which wasn’t so well-designed).

    I’m more thinking of attracting mainstream writers at the moment, though.

  3. Mary Anne-
    I think this opens up an even bigger question of how to advertise academic programs. One of my job responsibilities is to get new students for our new masters in hispanic media and I just can’t get my head around the advertising. I never looked at advertising as part of the selction for any the universities I attended. You just knew what schools were good, or I looked up schools that had my program in the library. Please share what you discover on this topic because I quit marketing to become an academic and now I’m back at it and don’t know what will work.

  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Heh. Andrea, please don’t assume I know anything about marketing. I’m just thinking out loud, but I’ll be happy to keep thinking about this stuff here. Maybe something useful will come out of it.

    I’m trying to think about when I was applying to MFA programs, what I was thinking about. The problem is that I did it really badly, in retrospect. I knew that Kev was likely to end up in Philadelphia, Chicago, or the Bay Area, so I just applied to a bunch of programs in those cities, fairly randomly. I didn’t know anything about any program’s reputation (*maybe* I’d heard of Iowa, but quite possibly not). I wasn’t hanging out with writers. I didn’t do any research. I particularly didn’t research the *cost* of these programs, and when I look at ads now that promise a $17,500 fellowship annually to every student, in addition to complete tuition reimbursement, it makes me want to weep for the $30,000 in student loan debt I accumulated at Mills (one year tuition plus two years living expenses, because I wanted to be a student full-time and not have a job). I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t think, and I didn’t research.

    So the thing is, I don’t have any idea where a novice writer might look to find info about MFA programs. I *think* Writer’s Digest market guides were the only writing-related publications I’d seen at that point; I can’t remember whether they carry ads for MFA programs. They ought to. Poets & Writers is probably reasonable too. I’m not sure I’ve ever read The Writer, personally, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t widely read.

    Hmm…I suppose one thing to do would be to check circulations at these publications. Check their ad prices. But I still feel like this is going to miss the great mass of new writers. Where do new writers hang out? Anywhere? Bookstore and library writing groups? Should we be placing ads in Borders newsletters? On Bookslut and other bookblog sites?

    I still like the idea of subway ads, but I suspect they’re also prohibitively expensive. I found the company that sells them, because I was curious, but they don’t publish their rates on the web. It’d be kind of a scattershot approach, too…

    I feel like Roosevelt has tremendous potential, just because of its fabulous location in downtown Chicago. Not only is there a huge population here, with undoubtedly thousands of people who want to be writers, but plenty of people would be excited to move to Chicago (as opposed to poor Utah and Alabama, which have great programs in difficult cities/states). If I can just figure out how to take proper advantage of our geography…

    I can already see that the Roosevelt ad in the Chronicle, while a decent ad overall, makes no real mention of the city of Chicago, which I think is a big mistake. I think we should be plugging the blues clubs, the lake, the incredible restaurants, the inspiring architecture, the museums, poetry slams at the Green Mill, the diversity of ethnic neighborhoods, the art festivals, all the universities with their incredible libraries and academic presses — there’s just so much that makes this city a great place to be a writer.

  5. I would think a lot of advertising for MFA programs would be targetted at undergraduate English departments… send flyers?

    Or how about finding reading series (like KGB’s) in various metropolitan areas and co-sponsoring them if they’ll hand out brochures for your MFA program? 🙂 Is that tacky? It would probably be cheap…

  6. Another fairly low-cost possibility is flyers at cons. Or arranging to get faculty and students on panels at cons, which could be more costly.

  7. Ditto Benjamin on flyer-ing (?!) undergrad English departments.

    Not exactly the same but similar: I found out about and ultimately chose the Master’s in Space Studies program at the University of North Dakota via a flyer/poster on the bulletin board at my undergrad institution in Pennsylvania. The info cards on the poster were out, and I had no way to make a copy or write much down, so I swiped it even though I felt a little guilty. I later ‘fessed up to my professors at U.N.D. and they said that other students had told them they did the same.

    And North Dakota — talk about difficultly trying to attract students to the geography! I actually loved it. Not surprisingly, they’ve since moved primiarly to a distance ed. focus.

  8. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Alternative weeklies is good, I think, and we probably already flyer English departments across the country, but I should confirm that when I start in the fall. Still trying to think of more. Ah well — I’ll brainstorm with the rest of the staff when I get started. I don’t know why I’m trying to take on this job four months early…

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