Fiction writers, please submit two or three stories or selections from a novel, up to a limit of roughly forty double-spaced pages; poets, ten to twelve poems, please. The manuscript you submit is far and away the most important criterion for selection. We look for the usual things–demonstrated proficiency, an interesting voice, raw talent, quirks that either match or challenge our own–in short, writing done by people we think we’d like to know, spend a year working with, and be of some use to. We pride ourselves on the care with which we read the material, but we are writers, after all, which means opinionated and eccentric, and we know we make our share of misjudgments and mistakes.
(A word to the wise, especially fiction writers: we recommend two or three mid-length stories; we like to see your range. Best not to send one short story of less than 10-15 pages. You may send novel excerpts but give us as much context as you can; you’re better off sending the first chapter; you’re best off sending stories. Double space your fiction and never use both sides of a page if you apply on paper. No graphics, please. Remember, this program is not interested in and does not teach creative non-fiction. Don’t slight the personal statement: let us hear your voice and your peculiarities and who you think you are or might become as a fiction writer. A hint: those who write in flowery prose or overly-subjectively–that is, about dreams, memories, thoughts, states of mind–or who dwell obsessively on sensitive children may find themselves at a disadvantage. Clean prose, without too many adjectives and hardly any adverbs, puts us in quite a good mood, though of course brilliance, in whatever form, wins the day.)
Since we need some assurance that the applicant can handle graduate courses without too much agony or stress, we also require the usual letters of recommendation and transcripts; GRE scores are now considered optional.
Beginning in fall 2012, you must apply online. Do try to meet the March 1st deadline; late applications face many difficulties, including dwindling possibilities of financial aid. Please note that our deadline, March 1, supersedes the January 15 date in the Boston University Graduate School catalog.
A further note: applicants must decide which genre they wish to apply for. Do not submit poems and fiction, or ask us to make this choice. Important: please include a phone number and if possible an e-mail address at which you can be reached both day and night in March and April.