A friend of mine, a fiction writer, is currently trying to get into an MFA program in Creative Writing at a prestigious midwestern university and was surprised to see that, in addition to an individual writing sample, they are now requiring applicants to answer essay questions. My friend was especially taken aback by the questions themselves, which were unusual to say the least. Here's what she had to choose from:
Please select one (1) of the following essay questions and write an essay of no more than 500 (five hundred) words:
1) It has been said that an artist's responsibility to humanity is, above all, to tell the truth. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?
2) Give one example of a personally significant experience that caused you to re-examine your views of the world and tell how you were able to put it to use in your fiction.
3) If you were having a dinner party and could invite one character from Ernest Hemingway's The Old Man and the Sea, who would it be?
4) Some people write in first person, others in third, while only the most ambitious write in second. Why do you think nobody uses fourth person anymore?
5) If Dante, Cervantes, and Updike found a bottle containing a genie, which of them do you think would be the one to make the third wish? What would they wish for? Would they get it? How would humanity be changed? Would this change be for the better? Or would it be for the worst? Or would things stay pretty much the same? Explain.
6) Discuss the role, if any, that innovation should play in the writing process.
7) Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "If the publishing industry continues to abuse the sensibilities of readers by spewing out literature at the rate it is now, we very well may reach a point in the not-too-distant future where the act of having published a book will be looked upon as a sign of extremely poor taste."
8) Please list any good plot ideas you'd like to share with the Committee.
(My friend chose question #7.)