Mar 25, 2006, 4:21 PM
Post #40 of 347
Well, it's possible that context/circumstance matters here (as in so many other discussions).
Re: [bighark] Fiction Workshop
Some MFA programs (in this case, I'm happy to say my former program is among them) have policies on ms length for workshop. 25 pages is the max per fiction submission. We submitted twice during the residency week and four times during the semester, so ultimately you could have up to 150 pages critiqued per residency/semester.
At one residency, a classmate submitted the full 25 pages, which was fine, but then he apparently expected us to read an appended 10-page single-spaced synopsis of the novel chapters that preceded those 25 pages. I told my classmate flat-out that I wasn't reading the synopsis. I had signed on to read 25 pages and to critique those pages, and I had two other classmates' work to read and critique for the next day's workshop, too. (Low-res students know how intense those residencies are.)
Later (we had an online workshop system in this low-res program) the classmate submitted another 25 pages, which again would have been fine, but in this case the 25 pages were not contiguous--the sample was made up of the last two chapters of his novel, followed by the first chapter. Again, I said that I had signed on for a critique--I had a set amount of time to critique his work and my other classmates' work prior to the deadline we all had to meet, and I would be happy to critique either the first chapter or the last two chapters, but I wasn't writing up two critiques for him that month. He disagreed, vehemently (those chapters were all from the same work, after all, he said). But the instructor agreed with me. So I ended up writing a critique of the last two chapters. And my classmate was very unhappy with me.
I'll add that this came after a semester in which I had "experimented" by submitting two short stories that even combined fell under the 25-page limit. The resulting critiques reflected that my classmates' attention had been too divided. In the end, I came to realize that it was better to submit fewer pages, if it meant that they were contiguous. And frankly it always annoyed me when people went beyond the 25-page limit. A few lines or even half a page, fine. But I felt the rules were there for a reason, and it really bothered me when others disregarded them.
I think everyone agrees that it's important to be grown-up in a workshop for grown-ups. But sometimes childish, self-centered behavior is in the eyes of the beholder.
Quiet Americans: Stories