Jeanne Lyet Gassman
Apr 16, 2009, 12:30 PM
Post #262 of 344
Re: [chop] Second Time (or more)
I'm in my third semester of a low-res program, and I have no regrets, although I had the opportunity to attend a residency program in my home state within commuting distance. Some things I can tell you about what I have learned from my low-res experience thus far:
It requires tremendous discipline.
You have to learn to manage your writing/reading time and manage it well. It doesn't seem like a big commitment, but the work load is heavier than you realize. At the end of each residency, you are sent home with a semester plan. For the next approximately 6 months (no spring, summer, or winter breaks with low-res), you will be submitting a packet of your creative work and some critical writing (based on your reading) every 4 weeks. The feedback you receive is detailed and personal. Remember, the faculty seldom have more than 5-6 students assigned to them, so they can put a lot of time into your writing needs.
There is a strong sense of community at the residencies and beyond.
Low-res students communicate via cyberspace, but a lot of us find ways to get together in real time. This summer, I will be traveling to my residency with a fellow low-res student who is two semesters behind me. Last winter, I traveled with another student. We visit fellow students near us, exchange work outside of the program requirements, go to each other's readings, cheer on our fellow students' successes, etc. I feel that my low-res program is especially nurturing. EVERYONE wants you to succeed. They give you leads on grants, publication opportunities, jobs, retreats, workshops...the support is fantastic. I've belonged to critique groups for years--some of them with well-known authors--and I have never found the community that I have with my low-res program.
The support lasts beyond your MFA.
Some examples: A friend of mine was referred to a faculty member's agent shortly after graduating. Her book went on to win some very prestigious awards.
Another grad started a literary magazine and encourages all of the program grads to contribute.
Another grad received a job offer to edit a different lit magazine.
Other students have networked into teaching positions at prestigious writing programs.
The faculty often works with students on special projects after they graduate. I know of two people who finished and published novels with faculty help AFTER graduating.
The faculty at my program are stellar.
I am well-read and have a good background in literature, but I have learned sooo much in the past two years. And my craft shows that. My advisors have pushed me to experiment with my craft, to reach beyond my comfort zone, to read authors I had never heard of, and to grow as a writer. I will be graduating next winter with a novel manuscript, a collection of some decent short stories, and some pretty solid critical writing under my belt. But all of that took hours of hard work. Hours and hours of late nights and long weekends on my part. And I suspect, I gave my advisors some long hours of work, too. :)
So, no, I don't think you are "settling" for a low-res program. Frankly, I can't imagine doing this any other way. The residency program I could have gone to is huge; the faculty is overloaded; and with the current economic crisis, the funding is rapidly evaporating. It has cost me some money to go the low-res route, but it's been worth every cent. Nope. No regrets. Well, just one...I don't want to leave! I'm looking forward to graduating, but I will really, really miss the structure and discipline. I'm just hoping I've matured enough to maintain this on my own!
You haven't named your low-res program (nor have I), but if you have more questions, feel free to PM me.